Thailand’s health ministry today revealed that in a pilot project for vaccine passports, the Southeast Asian nation will allow COVID-immunized foreigners to visit its biggest island for tourism without having to undergo quarantine.
Its economy being heavily reliant on foreign tourism, Thailand lost out on a lot of revenue in 2020 and is now eager to reopen international tourism and secure enough supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine to protect its population.
“If we can inoculate 50 percent to 60 percent of the population, we can open the country safely, and move the economy and tourism forward,” said senior health official Kiattiphum Wongraijit, according to Reuters.
For a long while, Thailand relied upon a long-held ban on foreign travel, followed by strict entry requirement requirements to help limit infections —including a 14-day quarantine at government-approved accommodations in which guests are confined to their rooms with meals delivered to their door. As a result, Thailand has seen just 28,577 cases with 92 fatalities over the entire course of the pandemic thus far.
But, now that vaccination initiatives are underway in Europe, the U.S. and other tourism source markets, the Thai government’s priorities are shifting. Tourism officials are aiming to reopen the country to international travelers by July, by which time they believe most visitors will have been vaccinated and Thailand will have had a chance to vaccinate its most vulnerable citizens and front-line staff.
With that expectation, Thailand’s coronavirus task force today approved the major tourism destination of Phuket province to receive vaccinated foreign visitors directly, and without quarantine requirements, from July, after the island has inoculated 70 percent of its residents.
However, starting in April, the standing quarantine requirement will be cut in half to seven days for fully-vaccinated tourists in Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai, Phang Nga and Krabi, Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said during a news conference. He also said that the quarantine waiver is expected to have extended to five vacation destinations by the fourth quarter.
Authorities expect Thailand’s vaccination drive to start in earnest by June, and aim to have inoculated half of the country’s popular by year’s end. They’ve just announced that an order has been placed for five million more doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, along with five million more doses procured from China’s Sinovac Biotech, which will rise Thailand’s overall vaccine order up to 73 million doses.
The central bank is anticipating Thailand will receive just three million foreign visitors this year, while international arrivals in 2020 fell to 6.7 million, down from nearly 40 million in 2019.