BANGKOK - Thailand plans to scrap quarantine for fully vaccinated air travellers from at least 10 low-risk countries including Singapore from Nov 1, in the hope of rebuilding its battered tourism sector.
Speaking in a televised broadcast on Monday night (Oct 11), Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he has asked the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) and the Ministry of Public health to "urgently consider" within this week about allowing fully vaccinated visitors from a list of "low-risk" countries to enter Thailand without the need for quarantine.
These visitors only need to present negative results for their PCR tests done before travel and when they reach Thailand.
"After which, they will be free to move around Thailand in the same way that any Thai citizen can do," said Mr Prayut.
Thailand will begin with at least 10 nations, including Singapore, Germany, China, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The full list will be finalised at a CCSA meeting later this week, said the authorities. The list will be gradually expanded in coming months.
Visitors from places that are not on the list will still have to adhere to current quarantine measures, which include a seven-day quarantine for fully vaccinated travellers and 10 days for those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.
Currently, travellers who enter Thailand through the sandbox programmes on Phuket and Samui do not need to serve a hotel quarantine but are required to stay on the islands for seven nights before they can travel to other regions in Thailand.
With some countries easing part of their curbs on international travel, Mr Prayut said: "We must act quickly but still cautiously, and not miss the opportunity to entice some of the year-end and New Year holiday season travellers during the next few months."
Thailand's tourism sector used to make up a fifth of its national income, but travel restrictions have caused its earnings to plummet.
Daily Covid-19 cases and deaths have been on the decline, with the nation having more than 1.7 million infections and more than 17,600 deaths so far.
In August, Thailand said it would shift its strategy to "learning to live with Covid-19" and has been ramping up its national inoculation drive. So far, just over 30 per cent of its population is fully vaccinated.
Said Mr Prayut: "The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and diseases, much as we have learnt to live with other diseases with treatments and vaccinations."
Acknowledging that the decision to open Thailand's borders comes with some risk, Mr Prayut said the authorities will be tracking the situation carefully and will "act accordingly and proportionately" if new dangerous Covid-19 variants emerge.
"It is almost certain that we will see a temporary rise in serious cases as we relax these restrictions... (But) I do not think that the many millions who depend on the income generated by the travel, leisure and entertainment sectors can possibly afford the devastating blow of a second lost New Year holiday period," he added.