China-Vietnam Border COVID-Restrictions Lifted, Flights Resume
For almost three years goods and people crossing from China to Vietnam and vice-versa have struggled at the border as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Those restrictions have now eased and should facilitate easier cross-border trade.
Hundreds of people reportedly lined up at the Mong Cai border gates over the weekend ready to cross into China, as Vietnam’s northern neighbor dismantled the last of its much maligned COVID-zero border restrictions.
Under said restrictions staff working at the border gates had to be effectively isolated and compulsory PCR tests were required for anyone crossing. The former requirement ended two weeks ago on December 31, the latter was removed yesterday.
These restrictions, at times, had a detrimental effect on cross border trade. At several points over the last three years they created queues of trucks that stretched for miles back into Vietnam and China. Earlier this year, some deliveries were reportedly stuck in line at the border for days.
Nevertheless, more than US$2 billion dollars worth of trade crossed the border up to September of 2022 and this is expected to be even bigger this year, with goods now able to flow more freely.
This is welcome news for Vietnam’s manufacturing industry, among a number of other sectors, which relies on a number of key components and raw materials from China.
In 2018, for example, China was responsible for 40 percent of Vietnam’s imported fabrics. With the garment and manufacturing industry already struggling on lower than expected orders, this should at least help to reduce wait times and speed up production.
Vietnam-China air transport resumes
Regular flights have also now been permitted to resume between China and Vietnam with compulsory quarantine lifted–though travelers flying into China are still required to complete a PCR test 48 hours before departure.
This new change in China’s COVID-restrictions may be just what Vietnam’s airline industry needs.
Vietnam’s national carrier, Vietnam Airlines, for example, has felt the full impact of COVID-19 restrictions with an accumulated loss to June 30 of VND28.9 trillion (ÚS$1.23 billion).
It has announced that it intends to start increasing flights to China in March.
This is good news for the tourism industry, which has struggled to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic–in 2022 there were just 3.6 million international visitors to Vietnam. For comparison, in 2019, Vietnam received 18 million visitors of which almost six million were from China.
With border restrictions easing these woes should subside, however, it may not happen as quickly as many tourism operators would like.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV), which has consulted with a number of Vietnamese airlines, has said that reaching the same volume of flights, and subsequently tourists, over the summer may be difficult for Vietnamese airlines.
Instead, it is expecting demand to come from business travellers, international students, and relatives of Vietnamese/Chinese citizens visiting their families.
The reopening of the border gates and easing of restrictions comes on the cusp of the Lunar New Year which is set to be celebrated January 22 in both Vietnam and China
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