Will Thailand be able to reopen safely this summer?
Phuket is preparing to waive its quarantine requirements ahead of a July reopening, according to Thai government officials.
Fully vaccinated international holidaymakers will be able to head to the popular beach island from July 1, with five more Thai tourist spots set to ease restrictions from October if the Phuket pilot runs smoothly.
In order to prepare for the influx of tourists, Phuket residents are being prioritised to receive a Covid-19 vaccination. The island is aiming to vaccinate 70% of its residents (which scientists believe would constitute herd immunity) before tourism resumes.
Last week, the Centre for Economic Situation Administration approved the proposal by Phuket’s private sector and business groups to inoculate the island’s residents.
It’s hoped that in October Krabi, Phangnga, Koh Samui, Chonburi and Chiang Mai will also be able to open quarantine-free.
However, there will be some restrictions placed on travel. Arrivals must stay for at least seven days at their point of entry before travelling onwards throughout Thailand. If holidaymakers fly into Phuket, they would be expected to remain on the island for at least a week after arrival. They would also be subject to a seven-day area quarantine if they then travelled on to other Thai destinations.
Officials were at pains to reiterate that vaccinated arrivals from the UK would also be welcome as long as they also test negative for Covid. Thailand had previously voiced concerns about welcoming holidaymakers from countries where Covid variants were circulating.
However, Thailand, and particularly Phuket, is keen to catch this year’s vital winter season. The country is a popular destination for sun seekers from the UK, northern Europe, Scandinavia and Russia during the northern hemisphere's colder months.
But the success of the plan will hinge on agreements and negotiations with other countries to allow free travel. Both Hong Kong and Singapore require returning residents to quarantine for significant periods of time, which could kill a proposed resumption of travel before it has even started. And it's currently illegal for Britons to travel internationally, no matter how warmly Thailand wants to welcome them back.
“Thailand’s priority is to make tourism safe for both tourists and locals alike,” said Chiravade Khunsub, director of Tourism Authority of Thailand.