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Phu Quoc to inoculate entire population in bid to revive tourism

The resort island Phu Quoc in southern Vietnam is planning to fully vaccinate its residents against COVID-19 by September to welcome the year-end foreign tourism surge, as part of a vaccine passport pilot programme.

During a health ministry meeting with Kien Giang province’s leaders on COVID-19 prevention and control and vaccine passport pilot implementation in Phu Quoc island city on June 26, Mai Van Huynh, Deputy Secretary of the Kien Giang Party Committee, said the plan is to carry out the first phase of vaccination in July and the second phase in September – with total time needed of about 16-18 weeks.

According to Huynh, it is estimated that 220,000 doses would be needed to fully inoculate the entire population of Phu Quoc. The budget reserved for the doses would be 29.3 billion VND (approx. 1.27 million USD) if the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine were to be used, or 40.3 billion VND (approx. 1.749 million USD) if the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were to be used.

The vaccination plan will be immediately carried out once the vaccines are delivered, he said.

Fully-vaccinated Russian tourists, which made up a large part of the visitors to Phu Quoc pre-pandemic, would be the first to be welcomed to the island in a "closed tourism model", where they would stay at a resort and movements are restricted. The model will be reviewed and tourists from other countries with high coverage of COVID-19 vaccine could then be allowed in as well.

The reopening to foreign tourism however necessitates enhancing medical capacity for the city when healthcare infrastructure here remains limited, in order to ensure safety and health for residents and tourists.

Deputy Health Minister Do Xuan Tuyen proposed setting up two centres for treating seriously-ill COVID-19 patients in Kien Giang – one at the provincial General Hospital and one on Phu Quoc island.

Tuyen wants all involved agencies to work with the local authorities to build a plan on vaccine passports to submit to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh for review before July 15.

Previously, the Government Office sent a document to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, ordering "rapid" study and piloting of a ‘vaccine passport’ mechanism for foreign arrivals to some popular tourism destinations where COVID-19 outbreaks could be contained such as Phu Quoc island.

The health ministry is asked to build plan on inoculating the residents – including children – to reach herd immunity within a detailed roadmap, before the vaccine passport can be implemented.

Tourism is the mainstay of Phu Quoc's economy. In 2020, tourists to the island dropped 30.6 percent compared to 2019, with international tourists plunging even further - 76.1 percent - due to border closures./.