Thailand sets mid-October to re-open to vaccinated visitors

BANGKOK (AP) – Thailand plans to fully re-open to vaccinated foreign visitors by mid-October as the government seeks to restart the crucial coronavirus-devastated tourism industry, the prime minister announced on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said fully inoculated foreign visitors and returning Thai citizens must be allowed entry “without quarantine or other inconvenient restrictions”, and that his goal is to open up the country within 120 days.

Prayuth acknowledged that the push to re-open might create problems.

“I know this decision comes with some risk because, when we open the country, there will be an increase in infections, no matter how good our precautions,” he said.

“But I think when we take into consideration the economic needs of the people, the time has come for us to take that calculated risk.”

Tourism is a major contributor to Thailand’s economy and employs millions of people. The country attracted nearly 40 million foreign arrivals in 2019, which plunged in 2020 because of an entry ban to control the coronavirus.

Prayuth said the government would reconsider the reopening only if a serious situation develops.

The government had previously targetted next January for reopening the country.

Thailand is in the midst of a surge in coronavirus cases that started in April and has accounted for more than 80 per cent of the country’s 204,595 total confirmed cases and 90 per cent of its 1,525 deaths.