Thailand plans to fully re-open to vaccinated tourists travelling by air from countries deemed low risk from November 1, Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha said Monday.
Before the pandemic, the kingdom 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.
But Covid-related travel restrictions have left the economy battered, contributing to its worst performance in more than 20 years.
Prayut announced Monday in a televised address the country will be reopening its borders to vaccinated tourists travelling by air from “low risk countries”.
The 10 nations considered low risk include Britain, the United States, China, Germany and Singapore.
“When they arrive, they should present a (negative) Covid test… and test once again upon arrival,” the prime minister said.
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 quarantine in a hotel.
Thailand’s so-called “sandbox” scheme in Phuket — which allows vaccinated tourists to move freely around the popular beach island — currently 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,” said Prayut, adding that more nations would be added to the greenlit list in December.
He acknowledged the decision came with the risk of more coronavirus cases.
“But I think the people will not able to stand it if they have to lose a second chance at this business opportunity.”
Last year, Thailand lost about $50 billion in tourism revenue as foreign arrivals plunged 83 percent to 6.7 million, from a record 39.9 million two years ago.
Currently, the kingdom has more than 1.7 million cases, and has recorded 17,751 dead.