Due to the complicated and unpredictable developments of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vietnamese government has taken various measures, which have grown more stringent over time, to combat the spread of the disease. Due in part to these timely measures, as of Monday, March 30, Vietnam had reported just over 200 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and no fatalities—encouraging numbers for a country of its size. However, with the clear understanding that a major outbreak could still occur at any time, the Prime Minister declared a nationwide epidemic and the government is seeking further measures to ensure containment, such as asking the municipal governments of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to work out a plan for the lockdown of those cities.
The measures currently in place include the following.
Travel Requirements & Restrictions
Visas on arrival for all foreign nationals, including those with visa exemption certificates, have been suspended. For managers and those on official, diplomatic trips, the authorities will issue visas on a case-by-case basis.
All travelers from outside of Vietnam entering with a visa will be subject to health checks and a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Domestic flights will be temporarily suspended from March 30 to April 15, 2020, except for routes from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, and from Hanoi/Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang and Phu Quoc. These routes will be maintained with a maximum frequency of one round trip per day for each airline.
All people in Vietnam are required to wear face masks in public places such as supermarkets, bus stations, airports, and on public transport vehicles. Buses and railroad services are also minimized both within a province as well as between provinces.
The Vietnamese government is quarantining areas with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases.
Government and Civil Service
With a few exceptions, Vietnamese government offices and courts are still in operation.
Until April 15, 2020, the Vietnamese courts are not accepting any hand-delivered petitions or other documents, nor summoning litigants to court. During this period, the courts are still working and sending documents (and receiving them) via post. In addition, the courts will not open court hearings, except for cases for which the settlement term has expired. For such court hearings, the hearings must contain no more than 20 people and ensure safety measures.
Prohibition on Gatherings
From March 28 to April 15, 2020, the Vietnamese government has banned all events which may gather more than 20 people, and any public gatherings with 10 people or more, including all religious services.
Most businesses providing services that are deemed non-essential have been ordered to close, including restaurants, bars, movie theaters, hair salons, gyms, and retail stores, except those providing essential food and drugs.
Proposed Governmental Financial Aid Regulations
On March 4, 2020, the Prime Minister signed Directive No.11/CT-TTg on urgent actions to support business and social security. The most notable points of this Directive are that the Prime Minister instructed the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), to launch a credit support package amounting to VND 250 trillion (approx. USD 10.5 billion) for businesses, and instructed the Ministry of Finance to offer a support package of VND 30 trillion (approx. USD 1.2 billion) for solving business difficulties and ensuring social security. In light of the above, the relevant authorities of Vietnam have guided local authorities to implement measures in several areas to support businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these proposals are as follows:
- Banking: SBV, Vietnam’s central bank, already decreased interest rates in February 2020. Further, SBV has requested commercial banks to delay, extend deadlines for, and reschedule debt payments as well as reduce interest rates and fees for businesses affected by COVID-19.
- Labor and Employment: Vietnam Social Security has provided guidance on temporary suspension of social insurance contributions to the pension and survivor fund for enterprises affected by COVID-19, and the Vietnam General Labor Confederation has also postponed the timing of trade union fee contributions for such enterprises. The suspensions will last until the end of June or December 2020, depending on the status of the outbreak, without calculating interest for late payment.
- Tax: The Vietnamese government is planning to issue a decree on deferral of the deadline for payments of taxes and land rental fees, applicable to those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Moreover, the Ministry of Finance is arranging for a resolution of the National Assembly to increase the level of personal and dependent relief so that personal income tax can be reduced, and apply certain corporate income tax policies in the form of tax breaks and delayed tax payments to support businesses (especially SMEs).
However, as a matter of practice, many measures are still at a policy level. They have not yet been put into actual implementation.