Thailand may waive quarantine for COVID-19 vaccinated tourists

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The Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-Ocha said on Tuesday his government will consider allowing visitors who can produce a vaccination certificate to skip the quarantine and authorities will come up with a plan to track them during their stay in the country.

Thailand may scrap its two-week mandatory quarantine for foreign visitors with proof of Covid-19 vaccination as the Southeast Asian nation seeks to revive its pandemic-hit tourism industry.

The plan to ease rules for tourists signals a shift in Thailand’s stance after months of insisting all visitors must stay in quarantine in the absence of enough evidence that inoculations can prevent virus transmission. If implemented, the move could bolster Thailand’s tourism sector that contributed about one-fifth to the nation’s pre-pandemic economy.

Thailand’s central bank has singled out an uncertain recovery in tourist arrivals as “a major risk” to the medium-term growth outlook, with Governor SethaputSuthiwartnarueput saying it would be very difficult for the economy to return to pre-pandemic levels without tourism. The economy, which shrank the most since 1998 last year, will expand this year “at somewhat a lower rate” than the central bank’s December projection of 3.2 per cent, it said this month.

While Thailand has reopened its borders to most foreign visitors since October, strict quarantine rules have kept most tourists away. The local industry has been calling for relaxed quarantine rules to attract tourists from countries that have started vaccine rollouts, such as China, Singapore and the U.K.

Shares of Thai hotel and restaurant operators and Airports of Thailand gained on Tuesday as investors cheered the relaxation of restrictions that were put in place to curb a flare-up in new infections and the approval for vaccine made by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. Thailand is set to receive its first doses of vaccines on Wednesday that will allow it start a national inoculation program within a week.