Thailand proposes easing quarantine rules in a bid to lure New Year tourists.
Fully vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries, including the United States and China, would be allowed to visit Thailand without undergoing quarantine starting Nov. 1, under a plan announced by the country’s prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Health officials are expected to approve the plan, which calls for the lifting of restrictions for tourists from 10 countries. It would be the first step in a phased reopening strategy that would lead to the resumption of service at entertainment venues as early as Dec. 1, he said in an address Monday evening.
Before the pandemic, Thailand’s economy was highly dependent on tourism and attracted nearly 40 million tourists in 2019, with more than a quarter coming from China. Bangkok, the capital, often ranks in surveys as the world’s most visited city. Thailand was among the most successful countries in containing the virus last year. But it was slow in procuring vaccines and has seen a surge of cases this year.
The prime minister said that Thailand must learn to live with the virus, noting that other nations were already taking steps to reopen to tourists, and that Thailand must act quickly to lure millions of visitors for the New Year holidays.
Under Mr. Prayuth’s plan, fully vaccinated visitors from the 10 countries would be required to show proof of a negative PCR test before departure, and to take another test upon arrival. After testing negative, they would be free to travel around Thailand. Visitors from countries not on the list would still face quarantines and other restrictions.
A ban on restaurants serving alcohol — a rule widely flouted in Bangkok — would remain in place until at least Dec. 1, he said.
In July, Thailand began allowing vaccinated tourists who tested negative to visit the island of Phuket under a program called the Phuket Sandbox. After 14 days, they were allowed to travel freely in Thailand. That period has since been reduced to seven days. Thailand has increased its vaccine supply in recent weeks and launched an aggressive inoculation campaign, vaccinating as many as 1 million people a day.
“The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and disease,” Mr. Prayuth said.