Thailand is cautiously stepping towards a phased reopening that will most likely kick-off this April but the borders might not fully open to welcome travelers until January 2022. The 5 provinces which have been deemed eligible for the phased reopening are Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani ( Samui, Tao and Phangan islands) Chonburi (Pattaya) and Chiang Mai.
The recovery plan put forward by Ministry of Tourism and Sports, which is still awaiting cabinet scrutiny, identifies four distinct opening phases starting with the ‘Wellness Leisure area Q and Hotel Q’ due to start on 1st April and will continue till May end. The next phases are named as ‘Exclusive Travel Area’ which will be from June to September, ‘Sandbox’ from October to December, and ‘Self Quarantine’ from January 2022 onwards.
Details about the 4 opening phases follows below:
- April to May – Wellness Leisure
Five provinces are eligible for relaxed quarantine rules; Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani ( Samui, Tao and Phangan islands) Chonburi (Pattaya) and Chiang Mai.
Under its terms, visitors from the UAE, Israel, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and possibly India and Russia line up for less daunting quarantine rules. Groups of one to four tourists get to stay confined in their room from day one to day three, followed by restricted access to specified hotel facilities from day four to 14. Hotels must be certified, and the plan recommends that ” health workers and risk groups should be vaccinated in the five provinces declared suitable for phase one of the reopening.
2. June to September – Exclusive Travel Area
The second opening phase, “Exclusive Travel Area (Sealed route)” covers the same source market countries and the five provinces in Thailand from June to September. The proposed plan cuts quarantine to “10 days or less” with at least two PCR swab tests, one on arrival at the airport and two days before the 10-day quarantine ends. They are allowed access to an “area Q” at the hotel and activities organised by certified travel firms extend to other certified hotels close by and adopt strict travel bubble rules and social distancing.
3. October to December – Sandbox
Travel still remains limited to the five provinces during the Sandbox phase that runs from October to December. However, the Sandbox phase ends the 10-day quarantine entirely replacing it with a one day quarantine while they wait for their PCR Swab test results.
Visitors will be eligible if they come from a country that has achieved a 70% vaccination of its resident population, rather than just the seven source markets named in the two earlier phases. Bilateral agreements with countries that have a low incidence and have vaccinated 70% of their population could be established during this phase to allow two-way travel.
The Ministry states 70% of resident populations in the five provinces should be vaccinated from October to December.
4. From January 2022 -Self Quarantine
The fourth phase, named ” Self Quarantine Track and Trace will open the travel door fully to all provinces across Thailand by January 2022 for vaccinated international travellers who pre-test negative before departure and have a “travel passport or vaccination certificate.” Eligible source market countries are those that have vaccinated 70% of their populations.
Mandatory measures such as hotel or area quarantine are history but authorities would still have the option to require a one-day quarantine on arrival while waiting for a PCR swab test result.
There is also a caveat that “most residents in Thailand will have been vaccinated by January 2022,” which will represent a major challenge for public health authorities.
Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health confirmed last week 30 million people should be inoculated by the year-end based on orders for 63 million doses. So far, it has vaccinated just over 44,400 people in high-risk areas around Bangkok.
The Ministry’s time-frame and staggered reopening are outlined in a 10-page PDF presentation presented to officials, police, tourist police and leaders of the travel and hospitality association that constituted semi-public hearing meetings in the five provinces last week.