Thailand eyes vaccine passports, quarantine waivers for tourists

The government of Thailand was keen on further loosening up its borders to international tourists through vaccination passports and quarantine waivers as it begins with its mass vaccination program.

A report by the Bangkok Post said Thursday that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered officials to look into the feasibility of a vaccine certificate for international travelers amid the country’s plan to scrap the two-week quarantine for travelers.

Being one of the countries in Southeast Asia heavily reliant on the tourism market, mandatory quarantines were poised to be lifted come July 1 so it can potentially open to millions of vaccinated tourists.

Once implemented, Thailand said a successful reopening could potentially spur other tourism-reliant nations to follow suit. This came after the United Kingdom said it would ease restrictions on their populations and allow them to travel overseas.

However, the World Health Organization warned of potential risks against countries loosening up borders too fast, especially for Thailand which saw as many as 40 million visitors in 2019. It said that countries may see longer-lasting damage to their economies.

John Blanco, a hotel manager in Thailand, was quoted as saying in the report that a gradual reopening would undoubtedly save businesses and jobs, and bolster the economy.

“Given the building global momentum of vaccination, it would make sense to begin planning for the necessary steps,” he added.

According to the Bank of Thailand, tourism which accounted for about a fifth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) prior to the pandemic, was key to economic recovery. Thailand’s GDP declined by 6.1 percent last year, the highest contraction so far this century.

Despite the jump in the number of infections this year, the country has largely contained the virus with 85 deaths over the course of the pandemic.

Minor International chairman William Heinecke, operator of 500 hotels worldwide, led a campaign to petition the reopening of borders from the third quarter after the pandemic caused hundreds of hotels and tourism businesses to shut.

“The current situation is unsustainable,” he said in his online petition which got almost 7,500 signatories in just three days.

“The July 1 reopening would be a strategic opportunity for Thailand to show a leadership role among Asian countries and prepare the way for a solid recovery of the Thai economy in 2022,” he added.

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