Thailand plans to fully reopen to vaccinated tourists from countries deemed low risk from Nov. 1, the country’s leader said on Monday, citing the urgent need to save the kingdom’s ailing economy.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Thailand attracted nearly 40 million visitors a year drawn to its picturesque beaches and robust nightlife, with tourism making up almost 20 percent of its national income.
However, pandemic-related travel restrictions have left the economy battered, contributing to its worst performance in more than 20 years.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced that the country would be reopening its borders to vaccinated tourists travelling by air from “low-risk countries.”
Of the 10 nations considered low risk, Prayuth named only China, Germany, Singapore, the UK and the US.
“When they arrive, they should present a [negative] COVID test ... and test once again upon arrival,” the prime minister said in a televised address.
After getting a negative test, “they can travel freely like Thais,” he said.
His announcement significantly loosens up current restrictions in place for vaccinated tourists, who must undergo at least seven days of hotel quarantine.
Thailand’s so-called “sandbox” scheme in Phuket — which allows vaccinated tourists to move freely around the popular beach island — requires them to remain there for a week.
Visitors outside of Thailand’s designated 10 low-risk countries are welcome, “but they have to be in quarantine,” Prayuth said, adding that more nations would be added to the greenlit list in December.
Earlier this year, Prayuth had vowed the country would reopen this month, saying that its vaccination campaign would be sped up to reach 70 percent of the population.
To date, 48 percent of Thais nationwide have received at least a single vaccine dose, while more than 30 percent have received two doses, health officials said on Monday.
The capital, Bangkok — once famed for its nightlife — is still under a nighttime curfew, as well as a booze ban in bars and restaurants.
Prayuth said authorities would “consider allowing alcoholic drinks in restaurants and reopening entertainment venues under strict health measures” during the New Year’s Eve period — previously a money-maker for the kingdom’s tourism sector.
He acknowledged his decision to reopen in less than a month came with the risk of more COVID-19 cases.
“But I think the people will not be able to stand it if they have to lose a second chance at this business opportunity,” he said, pointing to countries like the UK and Australia loosening their travel restrictions.
“The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it ... much as we have learned to live with other diseases with treatments and vaccinations,” he said.
Last year, Thailand lost about US$50 billion in tourism revenue as foreign arrivals plunged 83 percent to 6.7 million, from a record 39.9 million two years ago.
The kingdom is still registering about 10,000 new cases a day — largely fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2. It has more than 1.7 million cases to date and has recorded 17,751 dead.
Additional reporting by staff writer
Japan’s Mount Aso erupted yesterday, spewing a giant column of ash thousands of meters into the sky as hikers rushed away from the popular tourist spot. No injuries were immediately reported after the late-morning eruption in southwest Japan, which sent rocks flying in a dramatic blast captured by nearby CCTV cameras. People were warned not to approach the volcano as it ejected hot gas and ash as high as 3,500m, and sent stones tumbling down its grassy slopes. Authorities were checking if any hikers had been trapped or injured, officials told local media, as TV footage showed dozens of vehicles and tour buses
South Korea yesterday said that it would lift COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings next week as the country prepares to switch to a “living with COVID-19” strategy amid rising vaccination levels. A new panel established this week is drawing up a plan for a gradual lifting of curbs, aiming to lift restrictions and reopen the economy next month on the expectation that 80 percent of the adult population will be fully vaccinated. From Monday, the South Korean government is to allow gatherings of up to four unvaccinated people and ease operating-hour restrictions imposed on venues such as restaurants, cafes and cinemas, South
‘AVOIDABLE SITUATION’: After being tortured in his home country, a Sri Lankan and his family are at risk of deportation from the UK, despite his academic fellowship A scientist conducting groundbreaking research into renewable energy is facing deportation with his family to Sri Lanka, where he was tortured, after receiving contradictory information about his case from the British Home Office. Nadarajah Muhunthan, 47, his wife, Sharmila, 42, and their three children, aged 13, nine and five, went to the UK in 2018 after Muhunthan, who is working on thin-film photovoltaic devices used to generate solar power, was given a prestigious Commonwealth Rutherford fellowship. The award allowed him to reside to the UK for two years to research and develop the technology. His wife obtained a job caring for
A top global law firm is no longer representing the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in seeking the removal of a Tiananmen memorial from its campus after it came under heavy criticism in the US for helping China purge dissent, the Washington Post reported. Mayer Brown is the latest international company to face pressure over how its actions in China contradict its more progressive statements in the West. The 8m high Pillar of Shame sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiot has stood on HKU’s campus since 1997, the year the city was handed back to China. It features 50 anguished faces and tortured