The Government of Vietnam’s adoption of a more risk-based approach to the implementation of COVI-19 related restrictions is paving the way for a gradual relaxation of regulations that were part of its national limited lockdown ahead of National Reunification Day on April 30 and International Labor Day on May 1, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc praised the national effort to contain the pandemic and called for the public and Ministries to remain vigilant against reinfection. In a meeting on April 28 of the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control, the Prime Minister urged for the Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Defense in addition to the local People’s Committee to maintain safety precaution and coordinate quarantine zones against COVID-19 while enabling businesses and services to resume operation. The Prime Minister also agreed to lift the registration requirement for face mask exporters and quota limits for rice exporters, allowing for the normal export of these two products. In addition, the Prime Minister instructed the Ministry of Education and Training to implement safety procedures for campuses and students as schools resumed nationwide at a reduced schedule and capacity and the Ministry of Transport to gradually increase the frequency of domestic flights, cars and trains to meet the demand for transit.
The meeting followed the Prime Minister’s Directive 19 issued on April 24. Directive 19 is the latest guideline for public health measures to prevent and control COVID-19 as followed:
- People are asked to wash their hands regularly with soaps or disinfectants; wear masks in public; keep away from each other; avoid gathering in public places outside of offices, schools, and hospitals.
- Activities like festivals, religious gatherings, sports events and unnecessary public gathering remain suspended.
- Operation of non-essential services such as entertainment venues, beauty and massage parlors, karaoke bars and clubs, and other services under local People’s Committee’s instructions remains suspended.
- Operation of commercial services such as retails, lotteries, hotel and lodging, restaurants, sport centers, heritage sites, and tourist attractions are allowed to resume as long as safety precautions are in places, including providing personal protective gears for staff, taking body temperature of guests, and installing public hand sanitizers.
- Inter-province and intra-province transportation can resume operations under the Ministry of Transport’s instructions and with safety precautions. Air transportation is to follow special procedures to ensure public health safety.
- Schools are to resume with reduced numbers of student and altered schedules to avoid large gathering. Schools are to also disinfect facility and combine online learning to protect the students’ health.
- Factories and manufacturing facilities are to continue operations under safety precautions for employees and workers.
Following the three risk-based categories issued by the National Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control on April 15, Directive 19 also included specific instruction for each category. National Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control had announced three risk-based categories for cities and provinces based on which differently tailored social distancing plans would be implemented from April 16. The categorization is based on risk factors including transportation infrastructure, traffic volumes, border length and border crossings, exposure to foreigners, population density, and density of factories and industrial zones. On April 22, the National Committee revised the categories as followed:
- “At-risk” localities: Thuong Tin and Me Linh area of Hanoi.
- “High-risk” localities: Ho Chi Minh City, Bac Ninh, Ha Giang.
- “Low-risk” localities: the remaining provinces.
Instructions for each category are as followed:
- “At-risk” localities are to continue Prime Minister’s Directive 16 issued March 31 on COVID-19 Prevention and Control.
- “High-risk” localities are to advise people against going out, with the exception for essential services, with safety precautions, and to keep a minimum distance of one meter. These localities will also ban gathering of over 20 people in public places, outside of offices, schools, and hospitals.
- “Low-risk localities” are to encourage people to stay home, with the exception for essential services, with safety precautions, and to keep a minimum distance of one meter. These localities will also ban gathering of over 30 people in public places, outside of offices, schools, and hospitals.
The adoption of Directive 19 on April 28, is in addition to the previous measure implemented by the Government of Vietnam:
- Border closings
- International air travel is suspended until further notice.
- The Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) has proposed that the Ministry of Transport allow the increase of daily flight frequency between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and reopen other domestic flight routes after the end of the current social distancing period. Passengers have to maintain a minimum distance of two meters from one another when queuing up for procedures at airports’ terminals. All crew members and passengers must have their body temperature checked before each flight. All passengers must wear a face mask during flights.
- Foreign passport holders are turned back at port of entry (air, land, sea). Only diplomats, government officials and high-skilled corporate employees traveling on official business will be allowed in but they have to be quarantined for 14 days in their home, hotel or premise. Returning Vietnamese nationals shall be quarantined for 14 days in government-run facilities.
- All new arrivals at port of entry who are allowed in will be screened for any COVID-19 symptoms and sent to quarantine for 14 days or the hospital for treatment.
- Land borders with Laos and Cambodia are strictly closed for human movement, effective from 00:00 April 1, 2020. Anyone who is allowed to enter Vietnam from these two countries is sent to quarantine for 14 days in government-run facilities.
- Extend temporary residence for foreigners stranded due to COVID-19
- Quarantine policy
- Mass quarantine at government-run facilities applies to all new arrivals at port of entry (air, land, sea) and those who have come in close contact with confirmed cases at no cost to them. The military operate these facilities.
- Some hotels have been allowed to provide fee-based quarantine service, especially for foreign nationals.
- People in within close proximity of those who have come in close contact with confirmed cases are subject to quarantine at home or work premise. Local authorities supervise this quarantine.
- All confirmed cases, suspected case and probable cases are quarantined and treated in specialized hospitals.
- Cluster containment
- Depending on transmission risk level, an entire block of street, a building floor or a building itself, a commune, etc., where a confirm case is detected can be put in quarantine for 14 days. People living in contained areas are supplied with daily essentials at government’s cost.
- Economic measures
- April 9, 2020: The Government approved Resolution 42/2020/NĐ-CP on a social welfare package of USD 2.6 Billion for people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on removing difficulties in production and businesses and accelerating the disbursement of public investment. Of the seven groups subject to the package, six will benefit from the State budget while the remaining group - businesses - will be allowed to access bank loans with a zero percent interest rate to support their workers.
- April 9, 2020: Prime Minister approved Decree No 41/2020/NĐ-CP: extending deadlines for tax and land use fee payments to support businesses suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The tax deferment would be worth a total of USD 7.8 Billion. The decree took effect immediately. The extension would be five months from the deadline for payments. The following industry are eligible:
- Food processing, Textile, garment, Construction industry
- Transportation, Warehouse, Accommodation and catering, Education, Medical services
- Part-supply industry
- Small and micro – sized enterprises and credit institutions and branches of foreign banks which provided support to their customers who were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic following the requirements of the State Bank of Việt Nam
- April 13, 2020: the Government approved the Ministry of Industry and Trade proposal to decrease the retail price of electricity by 10 percent over the courses of three months.