Thailand is considering removing quarantine requirements for travelers who have completed their COVID-19 vaccines. Under a plan set to roll out in the third quarter of this year, the heavily tourist-based country hopes to see travelers return to the country. Tourist arrivals fell by over 80% in 2020 due to the pandemic, battering the local economy.
Under a proposed plan, aptly named “Welcome Back to Thailand Again,” the country hopes to open up its borders over a year after shutting them. According to a report in TTG Asia, the President of the Tourism Council of Thailand has already begun reaching out to agencies in neighboring markets like China to draw up plans for tourism and marketing.
The requirement to enter will simply be proof of completed COVID-19 vaccinations, along with the usual visa requirements. The vaccine proof will replace the mandatory 14-day quarantines currently in place for all arrivals to Thailand. If the plan goes through, it could make Thailand one of the first major tourist markets to fully reopen.
However, vaccinations remain a tricky hurdle in most countries. Even in countries that have begun vaccination, they remain reserved for health and essential workers along with high-risk groups. Some estimates suggest up to one billion people could be vaccinated globally by June. However, this is an optimistic estimate.
The second issue remains about how to check which vaccines are acceptable and how to verify that. For this, Thailand is hoping to use a modern tool.
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To tackle issues around verifying vaccinations, Thai authorities want to introduce “vaccine passports,” or immunity passports. These would verify that travelers have received the entire dosage of the vaccine and are therefore free to travel.
According to Coconuts, Tourism Authority Governor Yuthasak Supasorn has floated plans to introduce such passports for travelers. Thailand isn’t the only one interested in such a scheme, with the European Union also exploring a similar plan.
A vaccine passport could be similar to previous documents needed to prove vaccinations against yellow fever when traveling to parts of Africa (a small yellow book). However, as countries race towards vaccinating their populations, there is yet to be a consensus on these passports.
Organizations like IATA have floated the idea of digital health passes, which contain key testing and vaccine details. Both American and Singapore Airlines have trialed variants of such a digital pass, a much simpler method than procuring physical documents.
Critical for the Thai industry
Thailand’s heavily tourism-based economy has struggled in 2020 as revenues fell by a massive 73% due to border closures. This has resulted in tens of thousands of jobs lost and flag carrier Thai Airways struggling to stave off bankruptcy and implement a rescue plan. While the government has supported the industry, resuming travel will be the only way to prevent widespread job losses.
While formal plans remain far away, there could be light at the end of the tunnel for the tourism industry and travelers alike. For now, the industry is hoping to survive the coming months with little traffic revenue and rising cases.
What do you think about Thailand’s plan? Would you fly after your vaccine? Let us know in the comments!