Shorter quarantines on table again as vaccine arrival gives Thai tourism hope

No tourists are seen enjoying the newly renovated backpacker mecca of Khao San Road in January. A lot fewer businesses, too. Photo: Coconuts
No tourists are seen enjoying the newly renovated backpacker mecca of Khao San Road in January. A lot fewer businesses, too. Photo: Coconuts

Another look is being given to making quarantine less of a hassle to lure foreign travelers back to the kingdom now that vaccines have finally landed in the kingdom.

Fewer days of mandatory isolation and access to facilities outside of one’s room are among options under consideration to lower the barrier to travel, Gen. Nattapon Nakpanich of the National Security Council said Wednesday, the day the first two batches of COVID-19 vaccines arrived from abroad.

Relaxing the stringent requirements that turn off tourists and attracting vaccinated visitors and investors to Thailand, he said, is a priority for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, as the nation also wants to host more international sporting events after it won deals for world-class badminton and jet ski tournaments.

Prayuth on Tuesday said that tourists with COVID-19 passports, a theoretical certificate  of vaccination, would not need to isolate themselves at all but would still have their whereabouts monitored.

Nattapon said that health officials may not be ready to go that far just yet, as visitors can still be carrying the virus. 

But the tourism industry is eager for any relief after seeing receipts fall from THB1.9 trillion from about 40 million tourists two years ago to only THB332 billion spent by 6.7 million visitors last year. The risk factor will change in the coming months as more vaccine reaches Thailand. The first 317,600 doses arrived Wednesday, a mix of Chinese-made CoronaVac from Beijing and AstraZeneca from Italy.

Nattapon said travel options are likely to look like the “villa quarantine” now being piloted in Phuket. After five days confined to their rooms, guests are allowed out to enjoy hotel facilities. They also aim to reduce the total duration from 14 days by an unspecified number of days.

Earlier this week, the cabinet approved transit flights to be allowed at Suvarnabhumi airport, but passengers will be confined to a specific area at the airport terminal and allowed to stay up to 12 hours. They won’t have to go through the virus screening but have to show fit-to-fly and health certificates, as well as health insurance.

The rate of new COVID-19 cases has been declining since early February with fewer than 100 local transmissions logged since Valentine’s Day. Today, health officials announced 72 new cases, seven of which were found in Bangkok. The official death toll stands at 83.


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