Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has banned flights from countries and territories, initially the UK and South Africa, where mutations of the new coronavirus have been recorded.
Prime Minister Phuc said on Tuesday that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health, and Transport have to coordinate to work on a list of other countries and territories that should be covered by the suspension.
The ban comes after the Ministry of Health proposed on Monday that inbound flights be suspended or limited from countries and territories with the mutant coronavirus strain identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the UK on December 18.
According to scientists, the mutated coronavirus may be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the old one.
But Britain’s health minister on Monday said that the mutation found recently in South Africa is even more problematic.
So far, over 38 countries in the world have recorded patients infected with the new variant, most of whom came from the UK and South Africa, the first two countries to record the strain, the Vietnamese health ministry said.
As a result, many countries and territories in Europe, Asia, South America, the Caribbean and the Middle East have imposed entry restrictions and border closures, and banned flights to and from the UK, South Africa, and places that have identified the new variant of the coronavirus.
The health ministry submitted the proposal after it confirmed the first imported case of the new coronavirus variant on Saturday.
The PM noted in Tuesday’s order that the pandemic is developing in more complicated ways.
The virus was spreading more quickly with around 600,000 new infections and 6,000 deaths recorded each day, he said.
The risk for the disease to penetrate and spread in Vietnam is very high, especially from people from infected countries, Phuc emphasized.
He ordered authorities to tighten control at quarantine facilities and in border areas to prevent illegal entries.
Vietnam has suspended all inbound international commercial flights since March 2020, but the government has been operating repatriation flights to bring home Vietnamese citizens stuck abroad amid the pandemic.
Some special flights carrying foreign experts and investors have been allowed to fly into Vietnam. All people entering the country have to spend 14 days in quarantine.
The country has recorded 1,504 COVID-19 infections, with 1,339 recoveries and 35 deaths as of Wednesday morning, according to the health ministry's statistics.