BANGKOK, 15 March 2021: Thailand is cautiously heading to a phased reopening that is likely to kick-off this April but the doors may not fully open to welcome tourists until January 2022.
Awaiting cabinet scrutiny, the latest Ministry of Tourism and Sports’ staged recovery plan identifies four distinct opening phases starting with the “Wellness Leisure area Q and Hotel Q” due to start 1 April and continue to the end of May.
Wellness Leisure April to May
Five provinces are eligible for relaxed quarantine rules; Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani ( Samui, Tao and Phangan islands) Chonburi (Pattaya) and Chiang Mai.
Under its terms, visitors from the UAE, Israel, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and possibly India and Russia line up for less daunting quarantine rules. Groups of one to four tourists get to stay confined in their room from day one to day three, followed by restricted access to specified hotel facilities from day four to 14. Hotels must be certified, and the plan recommends that ” health workers and risk groups should be vaccinated in the five provinces declared suitable for phase one of the reopening.
Exclusive Travel Area June to September
The second opening phase, “Exclusive Travel Area (Sealed route)” covers the same source market countries and the five provinces in Thailand from June to September. The proposed plan cuts quarantine to “10 days or less” with at least two PCR swab tests, one on arrival at the airport and two days before the 10-day quarantine ends. They are allowed access to an “area Q” at the hotel and activities organised by certified travel firms extend to other certified hotels close by and adopt strict travel bubble rules and social distancing.
Sandbox October to December
Travel still remains limited to the five provinces during the Sandbox phase that runs from October to December. However, the Sandbox phase ends the 10-day quarantine entirely replacing it with a one day quarantine while they wait for their PCR Swab test results.
Visitors will be eligible if they come from a country that has achieved a 70% vaccination of its resident population, rather than just the seven source markets named in the two earlier phases. Bilateral agreements with countries that have a low incidence and have vaccinated 70% of their population could be established during this phase to allow two-way travel.
The Ministry states 70% of resident populations in the five provinces should be vaccinated from October to December.
Self Quarantine January 2022 onwards
The fourth phase, named ” Self Quarantine Track and Trace will open the travel door fully to all provinces across Thailand by January 2022 for vaccinated international travellers who pre-test negative before departure and have a “travel passport or vaccination certificate.” Eligible source market countries are those that have vaccinated 70% of their populations.
Mandatory measures such as hotel or area quarantine are history but authorities would still have the option to require a one-day quarantine on arrival while waiting for a PCR swab test result.
There is also a caveat that “most residents in Thailand will have been vaccinated by January 2022,” which will represent a major challenge for public health authorities.
Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health confirmed last week 30 million people should be inoculated by the year-end based on orders for 63 million doses. So far, it has vaccinated just over 44,400 people in high-risk areas around Bangkok.
The Ministry’s time-frame and staggered reopening are outlined in a 10-page PDF presentation presented to officials, police, tourist police and leaders of the travel and hospitality association that constituted semi-public hearing meetings in the five provinces last week.
On the sidelines of the Phuket meeting, a high ranking official shared the PDF with TTR Weekly and suggested two pilot projects involving an estimated 80 Russians could be initiated by the first week of April to introduce phase one, “Wellness Leisure”, to Phuket. However, the entire four-phase scheme remains subject to a Covid-19 Situation Administration (CSSA) review and the Thai Cabinet’s approval. Once those hurdles are crossed, the proposed ministerial regulations become active once they are published by the Royal Gazette.