Thailand reopened on Monday to fully vaccinated tourists arriving by air from 63 countries as it struggles to revive its economy despite struggling to reduce the number of Covid-19 cases.
Bangkok also lifted its nightly curfew, which had been in effect for four months, and will allow some restaurants to resume alcohol service. Bars, clubs and entertainment venues will be closed until at least December.
With the measures, Thailand became one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to reopen to tourists without the need for quarantine. Singapore opened to tourists from two countries without quarantine in September and has expanded its list to 10.
Indonesia opened Bali and two other islands last month but imposed so many restrictions, including four nights of quarantine, that foreign tourists have not yet arrived. Cambodia and Vietnam plan to reopen selected areas to foreign tourists in late November.
About a fifth of Thailand’s economy relies on tourism and, before the pandemic, it was one of the world’s top tourist destinations, attracting nearly 40 million visitors in 2019. People who depend on tourism for a living said that they were desperate for business and they were welcome. the prospect of foreigners returning.
“I am optimistic that by opening up the country, our economic situation will improve,” said Rujira Komonsing, a shoe store owner in Bangkok’s sprawling Chatuchak market. “I see that we have to live with Covid. The disease will not go away. “
The government is reopening now, in time for the next peak tourist season, even though it is struggling to contain a month-long outbreak. On Monday, 8,165 new cases were reported. But traders and workers in the tourism industry said starving was a greater risk than Covid.
“I’m not worried about the number of cases,” said Puncharee Wongraungaram, a pottery vendor in Chatuchak, once a popular tourist destination. “We cannot afford to close the country any longer. People have expenses to pay and they need to eat ”.
The list of 63 points of origin that Thailand has deemed low risk includes the United States, China, India, Southeast Asia and much of Europe.
Fully vaccinated visitors to those areas will not have to self-quarantine, but must undergo a PCR test upon arrival and stay overnight in an approved hotel while awaiting the result. If they test negative, they can travel across the country.
After a slow start in obtaining vaccines, Thailand’s reopening has followed an aggressive inoculation campaign, especially in popular tourist areas. Bangkok reports that around two-thirds of its population is fully vaccinated.