Thailand reopens to vaccinated visitors to boost pandemic-hit economy

Image: Reuters

(Xinhua) — Thailand on Monday reopened to vaccinated visitors from more than 60 countries and regions amid efforts to revive its pandemic-battered economy.

From Monday, fully-vaccinated travellers flying from 63 countries and regions, including China, the United States, Britain, Australia and Japan, are allowed to enter the Southeast Asian country without quarantine requirement.

Upon arrival, the travellers have to stay at designated hotels for the first night to wait for their on-arrival COVID-19 test results.

Vaccinated visitors from countries and regions that are not on the quarantine-free list can travel to Bangkok and 16 other destinations, but have to stay there for at least seven nights before heading elsewhere in the country.

They can travel freely in the confined destinations during the seven days once their on-arrival tests come out negative.

The reopening came after Thailand had shut its borders to most foreign visitors since April 2020 after local transmission of COVID-19 started to climb.

The country’s number of foreign tourist arrivals dived to 6.7 million in 2020 from a peak of nearly 40 million in 2019, taking a toll on the tourism sector, which accounts for about one-fifth of Thailand’s economy before the pandemic.

The country’s economy recorded its worst recession in more than two decades in 2020, shrinking 6.1 percent from 2019.

Rising tourist arrivals would help lift Thailand’s economic growth to 3.5 percent next year, said Kirida Bhaopichitr, research director for international economics and development policy under the Thailand Development Research Institute. She expected the economy to grow between 0.5-1 percent this year.

Despite the reopening, it may take another two or three years before the tourism sector could return to its pre-pandemic levels, Kirida said in an interview with Xinhua.

As a pilot program, from July 1, Thailand allowed fully-vaccinated foreign visitors to enter its resort island Phuket without quarantine.

On Monday, Thailand reported 8,165 new COVID-19 cases and 55 more deaths, raising the total number of infections to 1.9 million while that of fatalities to 19,260, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

As of Sunday, the country has administered more than 75 million doses of vaccines, with more than 40 percent of its people having been fully vaccinated.