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VNA Resumes Flights to Sydney, Seoul and Tokyo, Though With Heavy Restrictions

Flights to and from Australia and several Asian nations will begin this weekend, followed (potentially) by the UK in May.

Beginning April 3, Vietnam Airlines flights will resume, linking Hanoi and Saigon with Sydney, Seoul and Tokyo, the national carrier announced recently. The routes are Hanoi–Seoul, Hanoi–Tokyo, Hanoi–Sydney, and Saigon–Sydney.

The flights, however, are not for everyone. Outbound flights are only for Vietnamese citizens planning to study abroad or visit family or foreigners returning home. Those arriving on the return flights must be Vietnamese citizens being repatriated or foreign experts with permission to enter the country.

Vietnam remains closed to foreign tourists to minimize pandemic risks. Passengers on these flights are also required to follow preventative guidelines and provide health documents. A Vietnam Airlines representative stressed: "Passengers need to study regulations from foreign embassies to prepare the necessary documents and procedures."

On Wednesday the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Transport regarding a three-phase plan to allow foreigners to enter Vietnam without need for quarantine by September. The first phase, proposed to begin immediately, would open commercial inbound flights from select destinations for Vietnamese citizens and foreign experts. Those individuals until now have only been able to arrive on government-arranged or charter flights. 

Beginning in July, the second phase would open commercial flights up to other passengers, and quarantine measures would remain in place. The phase is expected to begin with flights from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and result in 6,000 to 7,000 passengers entering Vietnam each week.

During the third phase in September, Vietnamese and foreign passengers could avoid central quarantine and self-isolate at home if able to offer a certificate proving they had tested negative for COVID-19 and an international vaccination certificate demonstrating that they had received a COVID-19 vaccine that is recognized by Vietnam.

Vietnam's borders have been closed to international arrivals except for foreign experts and government-operated repatriation flights since last March. At the end of last year, the government approved outbound commercial flights to China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, but not inbound ones.

Meanwhile, Bamboo Airlines received permission from British aviation authorities to operate direct flights to London from Hanoi and Saigon for the first time, depending on local government approval and health situations. They hope to establish direct routes with Tokyo, Melbourne, Sydney, Singapore, Thailand and China as well.

[Photo via Flickr user Kevin Chung]

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