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More flexible quarantine rules desired by business community

Vietnam Investment Review

Increased vigilance is neccessary to stave off the pandemic

With Vietnam tightening quarantine rules for foreign arrivals amid the backdrop of increased coronavirus cases in the community, the shortage of foreign employees will continue to linger.

Last week, the Ministry of Health announced that Vietnam will extend its quarantine measures from 14 to 21 days for both foreign arrivals and those who come into contact with COVID-19 patients. The move was made following the resurgence of coronavirus cases of several individuals who had completed the 14-day quarantine and tested negative two or even three times.

Le Bich Loan, deputy director of Saigon Hi-tech Park Management Authority, said that the government has made the right decision to keep the wider community safe during the global health crisis. However, she worries that businesses will face more difficulties due to a lack of foreign experts being able to enter the country.

“Companies have to find alternative local sources for foreign employees or communicate with overseas experts through online meetings to address operation issues. However, they still need some key non-Vietnamese experts to work on-site who have experience to deploy high technology and provide training to locals,” Loan explained.

She believes the extension to 21 days will be too time-consuming and costly for companies as they now have to wait for foreign experts finishing the mandatory quarantine. “If possible, the government can consider classifying the groups of foreign arrivals to Vietnam. Foreign experts who have vaccine passports should be facilitated to enter the country,” she said.

According to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs, there are nearly 8,500 highly-skilled foreign workers on a priority list to enter Vietnam. They involve some 2,000 employees of key national projects that use new technologies.

Vietnam’s early action, targeted testing, extensive contact tracing, effective government communication, and widespread public compliance has helped to mitigate the damage from the virus since it emerged at the tail-end of 2019.

Commenting on the government’s efforts, Adam Sitkoff, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hanoi said, “It is important to recognise that in-bound travel brings in foreign experts and businesspeople necessary to facilitate new investment, efficient operations, key infrastructure, education of Vietnamese children, and more. We also must recognise the hardships that the travel, tourism, transportation, and hospitality sectors have sustained during the pandemic period.”

Locking people inside a room for many weeks might seem like a good idea today, Sitkoff added, but Vietnamese policymakers will need to think seriously about a safe and simple system of documentation that will facilitate international arrivals here. “To stay competitive and grow the economy, creative thinking and leadership are both required,” Sitkoff concluded.

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