BANGKOK — The tourism minister on Friday said he wanted to shorten quarantine for foreign visitors to make it more attractive to spend a vacation in Thailand amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan said the proposal to cut mandatory quarantine from 14 to to seven days is likely to go forward mid-November given that none of the first batch of tourists arriving on “Special Tourism Visas” in October tested positive for the coronavirus.
“The tourism ministry is looking for ways to resume international tourism as soon as possible,” Pipat said. “If none of the incoming tourists caught the virus, we will propose to shorten quarantine to seven days, but they’re still required to take two swab tests.”
Under the current arrangements, tourists must agree to be quarantined for 14 days and take COVID-19 tests before they are allowed to travel freely around the country.
The program was approved last week by the government, which was expected to attract 1,200 tourists entering the country per month and generate more than 1.2 billion baht in revenue for the crippled tourism industry. Pipat said the program has already attracted 300 tourists, who will enter the country this Oct. 1.
“They must follow all the protocols without any exception,” the minister said.
“It’s going to be the same standard as Thais returnees from overseas. They must take COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to their departure to Thailand and spend 14 days in alternative state quarantine facilities. If the first batch of tourists is safe, we will allow the second batch of 300 tourists to enter the country this Oct. 21.”
He also said the ministry will propose the government to permit as many as 10,000 foriegn tourists to enter the country “per week” if the initial phase of reopening is successful.
“We will submit the results of the reopening to the Cabinet to consider allowing more than 300 tourists to enter the country per week,” Pipat said. “The exact number will be deliberated by health officials, but we expect it to be as high as 10,000.”
But Anan Wongbenjarat, director general of the Department of Tourism, cautioned tourists to hold their excitement until the final decision has been made, since the proposal still needs to be approved by different sectors.
“We still need to deliberate over the proposal with the health sector. They are very cautious,” Anan said. “However, we hope that the first batch of tourists will prove to the Thai people that tourism reopening is safe and possible under the current situation.”
Deputy head of the disease control department Thanarak Plipat said the shorter quarantine period is not as important as a strong outbreak control measures.
“We have to look at the bigger picture,” Thanarak said. “If we want to reduce the quarantine period, we must have additional conditions such as granting it only to tourists from the country where there is no new transmission in 100 days.”