Starting from yesterday, all flights in and out of Danang, Vietnam are suspended. The suspension will last 15 days, as the city reported at least 15 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend – after a surge in domestic tourism.
The Vietnamese city reported its first case of the virus since April on Saturday. The following day, three more cases were found. Monday was when the most significant cluster occurred, with 11 fresh cases linked to a Danang hospital.
Danang is known to be a popular vacation spot. It is also Vietnams’ third-largest city, with 1.1 million residents.
Evacuation flights canceled
Vietnam’s first course of action was to evacuate 80,000 domestic tourists vacationing in Danang. As such, there were over 90 flights scheduled on Monday. The flag carrier, Vietnam Airlines, as well as Bamboo Airways, and VietJet, carried out the flights to 11 domestic destinations. FlightGlobal reported that the flag carrier utilized its Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s for the evacuation trips.
Initially, the evacuation flights were supposed to last over four days. However, Vo Huy Cuong from the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) said the remaining flights are now canceled. As reported in Reuters, he said,
An estimated 18,000 tourists have made their way back to Ho Chi Minh and at least 15,000 to Hanoi. VietJet has canceled flights to Danang until August 11th. Vietnam Airlines is offering free flight changes up to October 31st for those with bookings to Danang.
Danang in lockdown
The rest of the tourists that find themselves stuck in Danang will have to cooperate with lockdown orders. According to the South China Morning Post, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has “ordered tighter border and immigration controls.”
But if the situation in Danang is anything like how Vietnam has handled the virus so far, the lockdown should only have to last 15 days. At the time of writing, Vietnam has reported 446 cases and no fatalities. The Southeast Asian country of 95 million has only 77 active cases to date.
Vietnam has been lauded for its impeccable handling of the novel virus, especially considering its proximity to Wuhan, the origin of the outbreak.
Setback for international tourism
Vietnam barred international travelers from entering the country since March. With international tourism plateauing, the state has relied on domestic tourism to boost its economy. This is why there were 80,000 domestic travelers in Danang during the spike in cases.
A week ago, before the COVID-19 spike, Vietnam was considering flight resumptions with South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and Mainland China. TTG Asia reported the flights are for select travelers, overseas nationals, diplomats, high-level workers, and investors.
The Danang outbreak might have unfortunately put a setback on international flights from resuming.