Can the reopening of borders revive tourism in Southeast Asia?

Bangkok, October 12, 2021

Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha on a nationwide TV broadcast last night announced that Thailand plans to allow fully vaccinated foreign visitors to enter Thailand by air without quarantine requirement from November 1.

In the initial phase, Thailand will allow fully vaccinated travelers from at least 10 low-risk countries, including China, Germany, Singapore, UK and US. The list will be expanded from December 1, and further improved to become a very extended list from January 1.

As part of the plan, fully vaccinated foreign visitors from approved countries will be required to show they are COVID-free at the time of travel with an RT-PCR test performed before leaving their home country, and take a test in Thailand. , after which they will be free to move around Thailand in the same way any Thai citizen can, the prime minister said.

Visitors from countries not on the list will, of course, still be welcome, but with quarantine and other requirements.

In addition, the Prime Minister said that the consumption of alcoholic beverages in restaurants as well as the operation of places of entertainment under appropriate health precautions will be allowed from December 1.

Below, the full speech of the Prime Minister.

National speech by the Prime Minister of Thailand

“LA THALANDE WILL WELCOME VISITORS WITHOUT QUARANTINE”

Monday, October 11, 2021

My fellow citizens, brothers and sisters:

Over the past and a half years, we have lived with some of the greatest peacetime challenges our country has ever faced in its history, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and which has left no one unharmed and no countries in the world intact.

It has also been one of the most painful experiences of my life: making decisions that balance saving lives and saving livelihoods – a choice that is not always clearly separated, and where we can save lives. lives, but let us commit those lives to the unbearable pain of trying to survive on little or no income; or where we can save livelihoods but commit family, friends and neighbors to death and the loss of their breadwinner.

Faced with this terrible choice, I decided that we cannot allow a slow, wait-and-see approach to deal with the pandemic and let it cost so many of our compatriots the lives of, as we have finally seen happen in so many. other countries.

As a result, I have acted decisively on the advice of many of our outstanding public health experts to make our country one of the first in the world to act quickly with strict closures and regulations.

With the collaboration of all sectors of society and with everyone joining hands to face this crisis together, we have been among the most successful countries in the world in saving lives.

But it came at the cost of very great sacrifices of lost livelihoods, lost economies and destroyed businesses – which we all gave up for our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, friends and neighbors to can live for today.

The threat of a large-scale and deadly spread of the virus in Thailand is now diminishing, although the risk of a resurgence is still there, and even though there are still serious constraints on our hospital and medical capacities.

Now is the time for us to prepare to face the coronavirus and to live with it as with other endemic infections and diseases, just as we have learned to live with other diseases with treatments and vaccinations.

Today I would like to announce the first, small but important step in the decisive start of the process of trying to restore our livelihoods.

In recent weeks, some of Thailand’s most important tourist origin countries have started to ease travel restrictions for their citizens – countries like the UK, which now allow easy travel to our country, as well. than countries like Singapore and Australia that have started to soften. travel restrictions imposed on their citizens visiting other countries.

With these developments, we must act quickly but always with caution, and not miss the opportunity to attract some of the holiday and New Year’s travelers over the coming months to support the millions of people who live of our tourism. , the travel and entertainment sectors as well as many other related sectors.

I have therefore asked the CCSA and the Ministry of Public Health to urgently consider in this week to allow, as of November 1, international visitors to enter Thailand without any obligation of quarantine if they are completely vaccinated and arriving by plane from countries at risk.

All visitors will need to do is show that they are COVID-free at the time of their travel with an RT-PCR test performed before leaving their home country, and take a test in Thailand, after which they will be free to move. Thailand the same way any Thai citizen can.

As a first step, we’ll start with at least 10 countries on our low-risk, no-quarantine list, including UK, Singapore, Germany, China, and the United States of America, and expand that list to ‘by December 1, and by January 1 move to a very long list.

Visitors from countries not on the list will, of course, still be welcome, but with quarantine and other requirements.

By December 1, we will also consider allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages in restaurants as well as the operation of entertainment venues under appropriate health precautions to support the revitalization of the tourism and recreation sectors, especially in the New Year’s Eve is approaching.

I know this decision carries certain risks. It is almost certain that we will see a temporary increase in severe cases as we relax these restrictions. We will have to follow the situation very carefully and see how to contain and live with this situation, because I do not believe that the millions of people who depend on the income generated by the travel, leisure and entertainment industry can possibly afford the devastating blow. of a second lost New Year’s vacation.

But if in the coming months we see the unexpected emergence of a new, very dangerous variant of the virus, then of course we must also act accordingly and proportionally when we see the threat. We know this virus has surprised the world many times, and we need to be prepared for it to start again.

By mid-June of this year, I had set a target of 120 days for a quarantine-free entry into Thailand and to speed up our vaccinations.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the extraordinary achievements of our public health workers, other public officials and all citizens for their response to my appeal in June.

After adopting the 120-day target, extraordinary efforts were made to increase our vaccine supply and compete with many other countries for deliveries. And they have been very successful. Our vaccine deliveries have tripled from around 4 million doses in May to nearly 12 million in July… then to nearly 14 million in August, and will now rise to more than 20 million per month until the end of the year. end of the year, for a total of over 170 million doses. , far from the goals I had set for myself.

Likewise, our public health staff have worked tirelessly to speed up vaccinations to support our 120-day goal, and the public has been very cooperative in signing up for vaccinations despite the inconvenience that may have been caused. in planning. As a result, our daily vaccinations, which were working at around 80,000 doses per day in May, immediately increased. A month after we set our goals, our public health team tripled the number of injections given per day, and they kept increasing that number until Thailand became one of ten. fastest countries in the world to administer injections! Currently, they frequently administer more than 700,000 injections per day, sometimes even exceeding one million injections per day.

Shortly after my speech to the nation in mid-June setting our goal of non-quarantine entry into Thailand in 120 days, the world was struck by the highly infectious Delta variant. Cases around the world rose and peaked in August, just as they did in Thailand, and few believed that it would be possible to secure entry without quarantine in Thailand this year.

The fact that we can begin entry without quarantine in November, and despite the fact that many countries are still trying to contain Delta variant infections with restrictions on the travel of their citizens is a great tribute to the unity of objective and to the determined response to my call for public health services, by many other ministries, by the private sector and by the cooperation of citizens in all fields.

Our nation has achieved an extraordinary feat over the past few months and we can all be very proud of the enormous contribution each made to these achievements. These achievements, coupled with the gradual easing of travel restrictions from other countries, now allow us to begin the process of entry without quarantine into Thailand.

Thank you.

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