Thailand to study COVID passports for tourists, business calls for reopening from July 1

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Real Life Phuket

Having first rejected the idea, Thai authorities are now again looking into accepting Covid-19 vaccination passports for international travelers, as the country seeks to revive its tourism industry battered by a coronavirus, Bangkok Post reports. The announcement was made this week by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

Photo: Tore Bustad / Flickr

The “vaccine passport” should includes certification that its owner has been vaccinated against the virus with registered and recognised Covid-19 vaccines.

The practice is now discussed in other states willing to open their borders to foreign visitors. Countries such as United States, the United Kingdom as well as those in the European Union are reportedly among those considering this system.

"At this point, I have ordered a study to be conducted around this idea in preparation for its future use so that Thailand will be able to keep up with other countries," Gen Prayut said.

"Opinions about the Covid-19 vaccine passport system still vary, even in Thailand," he added.

Dr Opas Kankawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control (DDC), also added that the COVID-19 passport system could be be started under bilateral agreements with source tourist markets.

Limited arrivals

Right now Phuket already receives direct foreign arrivals but the numbers of tourists are limited and requirements they face are not clear. On Feb, 21 the island welcomed its first “travel bubble” tourists, who were then put on “villa quarantine” at Sri Panwa luxury resort, The Phuket News reported.

The tourists, 59 in total, arrived via Indonesia on two flights operated by Indonesian national airline Garuda Indonesia.

Present to welcome the tourists were Phuket Vice Governor Phichet Panaphong, head of Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) Dr Muenphrae Boonlom, and officers from the Disease Prevention and Control Region 11 Office.

The tourists passed swab tests and other procedures. Then they were taken to Sri Panwa resort for a 14-day “villa quarantine”.  The model, if successful, is hoped to be used elsewhere to help reopen the country to tourism.

“At this stage, the villa quarantine has been well organised and it will be used as an example for other hotels across the country to accept foreign tourists,” Vice Governor Phichet said.

First jabs

Meanwhile, Phuket has started its own vaccination campaign with medical workers and officials to be the first to get Sinovac vaccine delivered from China.

Among the first to be vaccinated will be 1,500 medical staff on the island, followed by 500 local officers. First medical workers received the vaccine on Mar 1. Next day Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew along with two vice governors and all their wives got their injections.

Present to oversee the governor's vaccination was Vachira Hospital Director Dr Chalermpong Sukontapol. Dr Chalermpong told that so far the island has received 4,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine. In the next delivery Phuket will receive 16,000 doses of vaccine, and another 48,000 doses are expected to arrive from China in May, The Phuket News reports.

Call for reopening

With the vaccine rollout a consortium of major tourism operators have launched a campaign to reopen the country to international tourists by July 1, not October 1 as was planned before. The campaign goes under the hashtag #OpenThailandSafely.

“In our petition to the Royal Thai Government, we are asking for a reopening of Thailand from 1 July, 2021, for vaccinated travelers, without quarantine requirements,” said the group in their statement on openthailandsafely.org.

As Thailand is starting to vaccinate its most vulnerable and its healthcare workers, we believe that now is the time to announce a firm and irreversible date to reopen its borders. This will give confidence to international travellers and encourage them to book a trip to Thailand,” the group added.

The petition was signed by many local heavy-weight hospitality bosses, including Andrew J. Wood, William Heinecke, Patrick Gauthier and others.

“The 1 July reopening would be a strategic opportunity for Thailand to show a leadership role among Asian countries and prepare the way for a solid recovery of the Thai economy in 2022,” the group believes.