Thai authorities plan to start talks with China and Malaysia to launch binational travel bubbles this month, expecting to attract more foreign visitors as the Test & Go quarantine-free entry scheme resumes.
On Monday, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said Thai officials would meet with China’s culture and tourism minister to discuss a possible travel bubble deal. There will also be talks with Malaysia later this month, he added.
Under the new arrangements, tourists will not be required to quarantine upon arrival. However, entries will be subject to special protocols over regulations on visas, flights and stays.
Mr. Thanakorn also explained that the number of people allowed to visit Thailand and the areas available for tourism would be limited to prevent new Covid-19 outbreaks if the new travel bubble is applied.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is confident that Thailand will remain among the world’s top tourist destinations despite the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, “and the government will support efforts to revitalize tourism with an emphasis on public health and safety,” the spokesperson added.
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports predicted that the number of visitors under the scheme would rise to 60,000 between this February and March, the country’s peak tourism period.
Meanwhile, the Visit Thailand Year 2022 campaign will promote several activities to attract more tourists, Mr. Thanakorn went on.
He also said the prime minister would chair a Friday meeting at the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration to discuss curbs that may be relaxed as more activities resume.
But Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul clarified that the Public Health Ministry would not consider lifting all restrictions as the daily Covid-19 case toll remains high. According to the latest reports, Thailand logged 10,470 new infections and 12 fatalities in the last 24 hours.
Authorities will also change the way they report Covid-19 figures to help people go about their daily lives without too much worry.
Mr. Anutin said that 80% of coronavirus-related deaths were people who did not receive both Covid-19 doses or belonged to risk groups, and 85% of all positive cases were asymptomatic. “Therefore, we don’t need to bring back lockdowns. Only nightlife venues, such as pubs, bars and karaoke parlors won’t be allowed to reopen just yet,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Department of Disease Control (DDC)’s director-general, Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, insisted that Thailand must start moving forward now that the situation has changed and people know how to protect themselves. “We can’t afford to be bogged down by Covid like in 2020,” he added.