Thailand to reduce quarantine for visitors to revive tourism

21 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

BANGKOK: Thailand will shorten the mandatory quarantine period for foreign travellers from next month but deferred a decision on recognising vaccine certificates for easier global mobility amid a spike in global virus cases.

A panel chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha on Friday approved curtailing the quarantine to 10 days from two weeks starting April 1, Traisuree Taisaranakul, a government spokesperson, told reporters in Bangkok, report agencies.

The country may stop enforcing quarantine altogether from Oct 1 though the group delayed a decision on cutting isolation period to seven days for vaccinated tourists as recommended by an expert group last week, officials said.

A shorter quarantine is expected to make Thailand - famed for its palm-fringed beaches, temples and backpacker culture - more attractive to millions of foreign tourists and is seen as a key step toward a wider reopening.

Still, tourism-reliant Thailand’s reluctance to fully ease curbs point to the dilemma faced by authorities in balancing the need to protect people from fresh outbreaks while bolstering economic activities.

The pandemic has devastated Thailand’s tourism industry, which provided more than US$60 billion in revenue from about 40 million foreign visitors in 2019. A government campaign to boost travel by locals through hotel and air travel concessions has failed to make up for the slump in earnings as strict quarantine rules have kept most foreign travellers away.

The Prayuth-led panel opted to assess the results of the ongoing inoculation drive and responses of other countries toward travel bubble agreements before approving vaccine passports for local residents, Rachada Dhnadirek, another government spokesperson, said.

Thailand is in talks with the US, South Korea and Singapore for vaccine passport pacts, according to Don Pramudwinai, deputy premier and foreign minister.

The government is prepared to lower the quarantine to seven days for vaccinated travellers once the nation is ready though a 14-day isolation will continue for those coming from areas with new virus strains, said Taweesilp Witsanuyotin, a spokesperson for the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration.