The latest news is bound to exasperate potential tourists thinking of visiting Thailand after October 1st as Friday’s announcement has created more confusion than clarity as to what will happen after that date. The government has also announced shorter quarantine periods from April 1st with 10 days for unvaccinated visitors and 7 days for those with vaccine certificates.
An announcement by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Friday that Thailand is to reopen to tourists from October 1st next without quarantine has been tempered somewhat after it was revealed by the body that ‘bubble and seal’ measures will be deployed at tourist destinations and transport facilities after that date.
On Friday, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration confirmed that Thailand will be reopening for foreign tourists without quarantine from October 1st.
However, Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin of the CCSA explained that the kingdom’s authorities would be deploying ‘close observation’ devices thought to mean tracking apps and what he termed ‘bubble and seal’ measures which will be in force at airports, tourist destinations and communities nearby.
‘Bubble and seal’ measures in Samut Sakhon province recently saw workers in local factories being denied permission to leave their workplaces there
It is not clear what these measures entail as of yet. However, Thai public health officials have used the term ‘bubble and seal’ in relation to measures recently to curb the Covid-19 infection rate within the hard-hit Samut Sakhon province. These involved confining workers to factories for extended periods.
At the time, Deputy Spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Natapanu Nopakun referred to this as providing accommodation to workers within factories and preventing them from leaving the premises.
In the last 48 hours, Thailand announced that the outbreak in Samut Sakhon has been brought under control and that it is no longer a Red Zone for the infection, the last such designation within the country caused by the second wave of the virus.
Shorter quarantine periods were confirmed
Dr Taweesilp also announced that from April 1st to September 30th, quarantine on arrival would be reduced from 14 days to 10 days to incoming passengers without a vaccine certificate and Covid-19 free certificate.
The visitor would still be subject to Covid-19 testing during this period with one test for those with a Covid-19 free certificate on entry and two for those without.
It is also proposed that quarantine within hotels for such visitors be eased to allow hotels guests access to certain amenities including gyms and swimming pools.
Guests will also be allowed access to controlled areas in their locality for exercise and shopping.
From July 1st, quarantined guests will be able to access restaurants within hotels and massage
From July 1st to September 30th, this flexibility will be extended to include hotel restaurants and hotel massage facilities.
Dr Taweesilp confirmed that the quarantine period for people with a vaccine certificate will be scaled back to 7 days from April 1st with one or two tests after arrival depending on whether they arrive with a Covid-19 free certificate or not.
Thai PM announced a new more robust and positive approach to the kingdom’s vaccination campaign
Following last Tuesday’s inoculation of the Thai cabinet and the Prime Minister at Government House, General Prayut took many observers by surprise by reversing government policy and easing access to vaccine products for the private sector and groups wishing to vaccinate local employees or community.
He signalled a more robust and confident approach to handling the vaccination process similar to the successful strategy undertaken in the United Kingdom where over 24 million people have already been vaccinated and 1.6 million have received a second dose.
‘We urge the Public Health Ministry to allow hospitals to import Covid-19 vaccines without waiting for the government’s approval, as we aim to vaccinate 10 million people per month,’ said General Prayut.
Success of the United Kingdom’s programme based on opening up access to the private sector and nationwide availability through the NHS
The success in the United Kingdom has been achieved by opening up the programme to the private sector including the involvement of supermarket chains and making vaccine doses as easy as possible for the public to access through the country’s NHS or National Health Service which operates all hospitals.
The announcement by Prime Minister Prayut this week was a direct reversal of emergency regulations issued by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Public Health to control access to the vaccine some weeks ago.
This order prohibited any foreign manufacturer from discussing the sale of vaccine products with customers in Thailand except the central government and banned importation by such parties.
Question regarding Certificate of Entry operated through embassies and Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Amidst the flurry of announcements today, there is still the key question of the system being operated via Royal Thai Embassies worldwide where visitors must obtain a Certificate of Entry to visit Thailand and emergency provisions regulating commercial air flights into the kingdom.
The laborious and tortuous nature of the process will certainly continue to hinder Thailand’s prospects of achieving foreign tourist numbers at anything like the scale seen in previous years.
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration today announced another extension of the emergency decree until May 31st which governs such provisions.
Speculation on an end to the Emergency Decree
There had been speculation that the Emergency Decree may expire before a full reopening on October 1st but today’s announcement regarding bubble and seal measures being deployed at tourist destinations appears to suggest otherwise although such measures may be possible under the 2015 Communicable Disease Act which allows for local quarantine measures.
The government’s quarantine measures have been disastrous for the foreign tourism industry in Thailand.
The current controlled and highly restrictive regime saw a loss of 99.8% in visitor numbers in January this year compared to last.
‘Bubble and Seal’ measures require clarification
A survey by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) last year also showed that 84% of potential foreign tourists would rule out any location which specifies any quarantine measures.
Pending clarification of the ‘bubble and seal’ measures proposed by the government, today’s announcement will be a disappointment to many foreign tourists, especially from western countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Australia planning their return to the Land of Smiles at the end of the year.