As I reported in December 2020, Thailand began admitting tourists who are willing to comply with multiple restrictions including testing negative before departure and after arrival, having health insurance that covers Covid-19, producing bank statements, obtaining a Certificate of Entry from a Thai embassy, and being required to spend 15 nights in quarantine at a government approved hotel. Now there are reports that the Thai government is considering eliminating all or part of the quarantine requirement for tourists who have been vaccinated. Hat Tip: Simple Flying
Thailand’s economy is heavily dependent on domestic and international tourism. In 2020, 6.9 million foreigners travelled to Thailand, down from 40 million in 2019. The restrictions currently in place are failing to attract back tourists in meaningful numbers. The time and cost of quarantine is a tough hurdle to overcome. The Thai tourism authority thinks that “vaccine passports” that would allow visitors to avoid isolating for two weeks on arrival will fix that problem.
The plan is called Welcome Back to Thailand Again. It is proposed to kick off in earnest in the third quarter of 2021 although some travelers might be able to start arriving as soon as April.
Vaccines are key to opening travel, but there are issues still to be worked out. There is no universally accepted form of proof of vaccination. That problem might be solved with apps like VeriFly that American Airlines is now using, or the TravelPass app, which is being developed by the International Air Transport Association.
Also, while experts have confidence that vaccinated individuals cannot spread SARS-CoV-2, that remains unproven. Until it is, any doubt about a vaccinated persons status could be resolved by testing on arrival and a short period of quarantine just to be safe.
Although it has suffered economically, Thailand has done an outstanding job containing the pandemic. It has recorded less than 20,000 total cases and only 77 deaths but is experiencing a spike currently mainly in a rural migrant worker community. Admitting tourists who can prove vaccination against Covid-19 disease would allow Thailand to protect the hard work and sacrifice already made in controlling the virus while helping the economy recover. The biggest threat to vaccine passports and Thailand’s plans may be virus mutations that prove resistant to vaccines. If that happens, we are all in big trouble. We will see how things turn out.