As more and more countries throughout Asia and Europe start to close borders with the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of abating, thousands of Vietnamese citizens are rushing home.
Passengers returning from European and Southeast Asian countries waiting at a cordoned off area at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, waiting to be transferred to concentrated quarantine locations.
An estimated 6,000 Vietnamese living or studying in Southeast Asia and a further 1,000 from European countries were expected to land in airports across the country on March 18, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam.
Among the 999 Vietnamese citizens returning from Europe, 325 will be touching down from the UK, France and Germany, three countries where the pandemic is raging with increasing numbers of cases and deaths that have forced governments to implement unprecedented restrictions and lockdown measures.
There will also be 96 foreigners from outside the UK and Schengen zone. The Government placed a ban on entry of tourists coming from the two areas four days ago.
As many as 78 flights expected to be carrying 5,711 Vietnamese passengers returning from ASEAN countries will be arriving on Wednesday too. Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi is scheduled to receive 22 flights with 1,623 passengers, while Da Nang Airport will welcome seven flights with 342 passengers. Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City is preparing to receive 43 flights with 3,159 passengers on board.
Cam Ranh Airport in Khanh Hoa province and Lien Khuong Airport in Lam Dong province will receive two flights transporting 220 and 159 passengers, respectively.
Can Tho Airport and Phu Quoc Airport (Kien Giang) will receive one flight each carrying 129 and 79 passengers, respectively.
To Tu Ha, deputy director of Noi Bai International Airport, said the procedures for passengers from high-risk regions had become more time-consuming than usual as more stringent measures were in place to prevent the spread of the acute respiratory disease in Vietnam.
All entrants would need to fill out compulsory health declaration forms, have clinical samples taken by health workers, and be transported to designated concentrated quarantine sites for visitors from virus-hit regions.
The Hanoi Centre for Disease Control, Noi Bai border police and related authorities had beefed up personnel to deal with the surge of passengers, but overloading would be inevitable during peak hours when many flights landed simultaneously, Ha said, urging for understanding on the part of passengers.
“While they are waiting for procedures to be completed, at noon or in the evening, Noi Bai has arranged free meals and drinks for passengers if necessary,” Ha said.
“All passengers need to stay informed of the rules and regulations during this time to ensure safety for themselves and their families, and to contribute to the concerted efforts made by the Vietnamese Government and public to fight the pandemic,” Ha said.
Passengers were asked to refrain from uncooperative behaviour towards law enforcement authorities. They should also follow notices and instructions on flight information boards, added the airport official.
The transport ministry has recommended Vietnamese nationals overseas to really consider their return trips to Vietnam as immigration rules had tightened and countries could unilaterally halt or change flights with little notice. Health officials have also advised against air travel as airports and planes were fertile grounds for virus transmission.
However, if Vietnamese nationals truly wished to return home, the Government would provide all necessary means to repatriate them.
The Vietnamese Government has discontinued issuing visas for foreigners for the next 30 days starting March 18.
It has also required that all arrivals from ASEAN countries or transiting via ASEAN countries within 14 days prior to entry to Vietnam be sent to concentrated quarantine sites./.