Bangkok: Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced on Monday that Thailand will no longer require quarantine for vaccinated visitors from 10 low-risk countries starting Nov. 1, as the nation attempts to rebuild its economy damaged by the pandemic.
Last year, Thailand suffered its deepest economic contraction in two decades with difficulties in key tourism sectors adding to their woes. Prayuth said that at least 10 countries, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, China and the United States, will be exempted from quarantine.
Later, he said, more countries will be added to the list. ‘I know this decision comes with some risk. It is almost certain that we will see a temporary rise in serious cases as we relax these restrictions,’ Prayuth said.
‘We will have to track the situation very carefully and see how to contain and live with that situation, because I do not think that the many millions who depend on the income generated by the travel, leisure and entertainment sector can possibly afford the devastating blow of a second lost new year holiday period,’ he said. If, however, a highly dangerous new strain of the virus appears in the months ahead, Thailand will act accordingly, Prayuth said.
Thailand’s coronavirus outbreaks had been kept under control with strict entry rules and quarantine measures until recently, but curbs on arrivals have caused the number of visitors to plummet to a fraction of last year’s nearly 40 million.
Last year, Thailand lost about $50 billion in tourism revenue, a drop of 82%. It began with a pilot reopening on July 1 on its most popular island, Phuket, where the majority of its residents have been vaccinated. Tourism Authority of Thailand estimates that only 100,000 foreign visitors will visit Thailand this year. In addition to resuming alcohol sales in restaurants, Thailand plans to reopen entertainment venues by Dec. 1, Prayuth said, adding that more than 170 doses of vaccine will be available by then.
Thai authorities have vaccinated 32.5% of 72 million people against COVID-19, and have eased restrictions in Bangkok and other provinces where infection numbers have declined.