World

Vietnam welcomes first foreign tourists in nearly 20 months

The first international tourists touched down in Vietnam almost 20 months after the Southeast Asian nation closed its borders to contain the coronavirus.

Two charter flights brought more than 400 South Korean and Japanese fully vaccinated passengers from Seoul and Tokyo on Thursday (Nov 11) to the southern resort city of Nha Trang, state media reported.

The area is popular with golfers, beach lovers and scuba divers, and boasts luxury hotels.

The flights came ahead of Vietnam's plans to reopen the resort island of Phu Quoc to vaccinated foreign visitors on Nov 20 - with hopes to welcome at least 5,000 travellers in coming months.

Foreign tourists seeking to enter Vietnam must show COVID-19 vaccination certificates and negative pre-departure coronavirus test results.

The country is desperate to revive its badly hit economy after months of lockdowns.

Its borders have been shut to international visitors since March last year and there are almost no commercial flights entering the country.

Vietnam was widely praised for its handling of the pandemic last year, with only dozens of known coronavirus cases.

But from April, the highly transmissible Delta variant took hold.

Vietnam has since clocked more than a million infections and almost 23,000 deaths, as it scrambles to secure enough vaccines for its 100 million population.

So far, about 32 per cent of people have been fully vaccinated.