BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand is accelerating plans to reopen the country to foreign tourists, slashing mandatory quarantines beginning Nov. 1 for fully vaccinated visitors arriving by air from 46 countries and territories, officials announced Friday.
The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration also announced a loosening of local restrictions, including cancellation of a curfew in some areas where risks have lessened and tourists can move freely.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced earlier this month that Thailand no longer planned to require visitors from at least 10 low-risk nations to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. He said the list would be expanded on Dec. 1, and then made even more extensive on Jan. 1.
Under the new rules, vaccinated travelers to Thailand from the approved 45 countries plus Hong Kong will be required to show negative results from RT-PCR tests before flying and upon their arrival. They will need to spend their first night in a government-approved hotel awaiting their test results, though the government is not calling that a quarantine. If the results are negative, the person can travel anywhere in Thailand.
Prayuth, announcing the expanded list of countries with eased quarantine rules late Thursday on his Facebook page, wrote: “To wait until everything is ready might be too late. Tourists may decide to visit other countries instead.”
Thailand shut its borders to most foreign visitors in April last year after local transmission of the coronavirus started to climb. Foreign tourist arrivals in 2019 were almost 40 million but plunged to 6.7 million in 2020. Tourism is estimated to have accounted for 12-20% of GDP before the pandemic.
Visitors from other countries are also allowed to enter Thailand but face additional restrictions.
The new rules coming into effect Nov. 1 include ending a late-night curfew in some areas, including Bangkok. The consumption of alcoholic drinks in public places, including restaurants, bars and nightclubs, remains banned, though the government has said the ban will be lifted in December to promote tourism during the New Year holiday season.
The Associated Press