Travel agencies told to halt tours to Ebola-hit areas
The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has told travel firms to consider suspending their tours to Ebola-hit places.
VNAT made the request after Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung required ministries, agencies and localities to stay on high alert for the deadly virus and do whatever they can to prevent it from spreading to Vietnam.
The tourism authority urged the companies serving tourists from the markets where the virus has broken out to closely work with local health quarantine agencies to monitor and detect the cases suspected of contracting the virus.
Meanwhile, hotels will have to report to competent agencies if they detect any cases showing Ebola symptoms.
Currently, few Vietnamese tourists travel to the African countries of Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea badly hit by the Ebola outbreaks. But, there is a possibility that the virus may spread to Vietnam as everyday a large number of foreign tourists come from Africa.
According to the Prime Minister’s instructions, though there has so far been no case in Vietnam detected with the Ebola virus, it is necessary to take preventive measures.
A couple of days ago, the Ministry of Health started to coordinate with relevant agencies to tighten the monitoring of arriving visitors at international border gates.
Airports are working with international health quarantine centers to follow regulations on preventing the spread of the disease by air, including those applicable to the passengers flying from Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam has banned animals and food without clear origins or quarantine on flights to Vietnam.
Three temperature scanners have been put in place at Tan Son Nhat International Airport to detect passengers with temperatures exceeding 37 Celsius and those suspected will be sent to isolation for medical examination. These scanners work around the clock.
There are no direct flights from Africa to HCMC.
The Ministry of Health has asked airlines to inform airport authorities of anyone suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus, and disinfect the seats of those passengers.
A number of international airlines have suspended flights to and from Liberia, Sierra Leone and the places hit by the Ebola outbreaks.
Ebola symptoms and signs are fever, headache, sore throat, joint and muscle aches, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, stomach pain and appetite reduction. Some patients may experience bleeding inside and outside of the body. Symptoms may appear two to 21 days after the exposure to the virus.
As of August 7, there had been 1,779 people contracting the virus globally and 961 people died. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a global heath emergency.
Vietnam’s tourism unharmed by Ebola scare
* Travel firms said the spread of Ebola scare worldwide after outbreaks of this deadly virus in certain African countries has not left any negative impact on their inbound and outbound tours.
None of the international travel firms in HCMC has reported a sharp decline in the number of visitors serviced by them since health departments and relevant agencies started health and temperature checks at international border gates in Vietnam, especially international airports.
Travelers come to Vietnam as usual, according to tour operators. The number of international visitors to the country may fall this time as now is regarded as a low season of the inbound segment.
Vo Anh Tai, director of Saigontourist Travel Service Co., said tourists still travel to and from Vietnam normally.
Bui Viet Thuy Tien, managing director of Asian Trails Co. Ltd., said international visitors consider temperature scanners and possible health checks at airports as necessary measures to protect their health and prevent the Ebola virus from spreading to Vietnam.
Representatives of other travel agencies said as Ebola has not originated in Asia, the reaction of international visitors to Vietnam to the virus spread is different from what they did with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or bird flu.
Vietnamese tourists still book the tours to the Philippines, where the first seven people have been reportedly monitored after returning from Sierra Leone.
Tran Vinh Loc, director of Lac Hong Voyages Co. Ltd. - a company with strong advantage in arranging trips to that market, said visitors feel secured because they are precisely informed of the Ebola situation and the risk of infection.
Cao Pham Hang, director of VietJet Tours, said her company keeps organizing outbound tours for Vietnamese travelers.
According to some travel firms, Vietnamese travelers still book tours to South Africa tours as usual.SGT/VNN