Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has announced a plan to allow fully-vaccinated visitors from "low risk" countries and regions to visit the Southeast Asian nation without having to quarantine from next month.
"I have instructed the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) and the Ministry of Public Health to urgently consider within this week to allow, as of November 1, international visitors to enter Thailand without any requirement for quarantine if they are fully vaccinated and arrive by air from low-risk countries," Prayut said via a televised address late Monday night.
The list will initially include at least 10 countries and regions, such as the UK, Singapore, Germany, China and the US, Prayut said.
It is expected to be finalised later this week by the CCSA, Xinhua news agency reported.
Prayut said that visitors from countries and regions not on the list can still enter, but will have to undergo quarantine.
The low-risk and quarantine-free list will be extended by December 1 and moved to "a very extensive list" by January 1, 2022, he said.
Before the pandemic, Thailand attracted a peak of nearly 40 million tourists in 2019, with tourism sector accounting for about one-fifth of its economy.
Covid-19 has forced the country to implement strict border control and left the economy battered, recording its worst performance in more than two decades last year. The number of tourist arrivals plunged to 6.7 million in 2020.
"We have been among the most successful countries in the world in saving lives. But it has come at very great sacrifices of lost livelihoods, lost savings and destroyed businesses," Prayut said.
To support tourism and boost the sector's growth, Prayut had announced in June this year that Thailand planned to fully reopen to international travellers within 120 days.
The government has been trying to accelerate vaccination roll-out to build a herd immunity.
As a pilot from July 1, the country allowed fully-vaccinated foreign visitors to enter the resort island of Phuket without quarantine.
In the late Monday speech, Prayut said the decision might come with risk of rising infections, but "I do not think the many millions who depend on the income generated by the travel, leisure and entertainment sector can possibly afford the devastating blow of a second lost new year holiday period".
"The time has come for us to live with it," he said.
On Monday, Thailand reported 10,035 new Covid-19 cases and 60 more deaths, raising the total number of infections to more than 1.72 million while that of fatalities to 17,751, according to the CCSA.
Till date, the country has administered more than 60 million doses of vaccines, with more than 30 per cent of its people having been fully vaccinated.
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