Thai PM plots course to quarantine free travel

BANGKOK, 13 October 2021: Thailand will abolish the quarantine rule for fully vaccinated travellers from at least 10 countries by 1 November.

The country’s Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, painted the broad strokes of a back-to-business schedule in a national TV address on Monday while instructing the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and the Ministry of Public Health to urgently consider details at its next meeting this Thursday.

It leaves some wriggle room for the CCSA and the Ministry of Public Health to modify minor details. At the same time, the PM has made it abundantly clear the country must shed the last shackles holding back the return of international tourism.

Effective 1 November, fully vaccinated travellers arriving by air from 10 countries on Thailand’s low-risk list will be able to visit without having to undergo quarantine. They will still need to present a Covid-19 negative test result to board the aircraft and again test negative on arrival in Thailand.

The PM identified just five countries – Singapore, Germany, China, the UK and the USA – that will join the 10-country list giving fully vaccinated travellers quarantine-free entry to Thailand.

He said the list of quarantine free travel countries would be extended beyond the initial 10 by 1 December and then again on 1 January 2022 when a “very extensive list” would be adopted to reopen international travel to Thailand across the country.

“During the last weeks, some of Thailand’s most important tourist source countries have begun to ease their travel restrictions on their citizens… With these developments, we must act quickly but still cautiously, and not miss the opportunity to entice some of the year-end and new year holiday season travellers during the next few months to support the many millions of people who earn a living from our tourism, travel and entertainment sectors as well as the many other related sectors.”

Restaurants that were hoping the ban on alcoholic beverages would be lifted, 1 November. They will now have to wait until 1 December for a very damaging rule that has hobbled the F&B sector for close to 20 months to be finally scrapped.

“By 1 December, we will also consider allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages in restaurants as well as the operation of entertainment venues,” the PM promised,

To be on the safe side, travellers should wait for the official announcement of the changes in quarantine rules to be published by the Royal Gazette or for the official news release issued by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Thailand’s vaccine campaign accelerated after a very poor start from around 4 million doses in May to almost 12 million arriving in July, then almost 14 million in August, and now running at over 20 million a month until the end of the year.

“As a result, our daily vaccinations shot up threefold in July, from around 80,000 doses a day in May, and kept increasing until Thailand rose to be among the fastest ten countries in the world for administering shots. We currently frequently administer more than 700,000 shots a day, and sometimes even exceeding one million shots a day,” the PM explained in the national TV broadcast.

“In the last one-and-a-half years, we have lived with some of the greatest peacetimes’ challenges our country has ever faced in its history, brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, and one that has left nobody untouched and no country in the world undamaged.”

Officials estimate the pandemic has cost the country more than USD50 billion in tourism revenue since March 2020. Earlier this week, the country reached 1.7 million cumulative cases and recorded 18,000 deaths.

Tourism, a mainstay sector for the country’s economy, dropped from just short of 40 million tourists in 2019 to just 70,000 visitors during the first eight months of 2021 with the Phuket Sandbox counting around half of all arrivals to the country since 1 July.

The PM concluded: “The threat of a large scale, the lethal spread of the virus in Thailand is now diminishing, even though the risk of resurgence is always there, and even though there are still serious constraints on our hospital and medical staff capacities.

“The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and diseases, much as we have learnt to live with other diseases with treatments and vaccinations.

“Today, I would like to announce the first small but important step in decisively beginning the process of trying to restore our livelihoods.”