The National Committee on Communicable Diseases has approved the use of vaccine passports in Thailand, and the Public Health Ministry will ask the government to consider reducing the length of mandatory quarantine for incoming travellers from 14 days to 7-10 days.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said if approved, shorter quarantine requirements will apply to travellers with vaccine passports who fall into the following three categories, starting in April.
The first are non-Thai citizens who were vaccinated against Covid-19 between 14 days to three months before their arrival in Thailand and have tested negative for the disease.
The second are Thai returnees who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 between 14-days to three months before their arrival in Thailand, while the third are non-Thai citizens who have not been vaccinated but possess Covid-19-free certificates.
However, travellers from South Africa, where a highly contagious coronavirus variant is rife, will still have to undergo the full 14-day quarantine.
Revival in tourism
The vaccine passport plan is the strongest signal yet from Thai authorities of their intent to reopen the borders more widely to tourists. The so-called vaccine passport holders may get a complete waiver from quarantine on arrival from October, according to Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
A successful reopening by Thailand could spur other tourism-reliant nations to follow suit, as countries like the U.K. set out ambitious timelines for easing restrictions.
Thailand is betting on a revival in tourism, which accounted for about a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product pre-pandemic, to return Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy to growth.
The local tourism industry has called for mandatory quarantines to be lifted from as early as July 1 so it can open to potentially millions of vaccinated visitors.
“The quarantine waiver remains the best way to support the travel industry” given the local industry’s dependence on foreign tourists, Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, president of the Thai Airlines Association told reporters.
Mandatory quarantine of any duration may still remain a sticking point for most holidaymakers though it may be used by business travelers and long-stay tourists, he said.
Thailand will be able to adjust its quarantine rules for inoculated travelers once there’s a global standard for vaccine passports, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said Monday. China and Thailand may agree on a bilateral electronic vaccine passport deal to create a travel bubble to boost the economy and tourism industry, Anutin said.
The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, chaired by Prayuth, will consider easing more restrictions ahead of the Thai New Year holiday in April, a peak travel period, according to Apisamai Srirangsan, the center’s spokeswoman.
More than 25,000 people in Thailand have received their first shots in the first week of a national rollout, including in regions that are popular with foreign tourists. The government may also lift a nationwide state of emergency imposed a year ago to contain the pandemic by the end of May, Apisamai said.