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Thailand expects to fully reopen to tourists in January 2022

FOREIGNERS vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to visit six tourism provinces here from April.

Bangkok Post reported that those who have been vaccinated will still be quarantined, but for only seven days.

Phuket will be the first province to waive the quarantine requirement for foreign tourists who have been vaccinated from July onwards.

This is part of the government's plans to reopen the country following the pandemic.

Minister of Tourism and Sport Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA), chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, approved a three-stage roadmap to reopen six major tourism provinces to vaccinated foreign visitors.

The provinces are Phuket, Krabi, Phangnga, Surat Thani (Koh Samui), Chon Buri (Pattaya) and Chiang Mai.

From April to June, inoculated foreign visitors arriving in these provinces will only be required to undergo quarantine in hotels or other designated facilities for seven days, he said.

From July to September, vaccinated tourists can visit Phuket without having to undergo quarantine under the so-called "Phuket Tourism Sandbox" programme, which is touted as a model for the reopening of the kingdom's tourism industry, Mr Phiphat said.

Despite the quarantine waiver, The Post said travel activities of tourists will be restricted to "sealed routes" on Phuket for seven days before they are allowed to visit other locations, he said.

Tourists are still required to use contact tracing apps, added Phiphat.

He said that between October and December, Phuket's sandbox model will be applied to five other tourism provinces. A full reopening of the country is expected to take place in January next year.

"CESA approved the reopening plan in principle to allow foreign tourists who have received two vaccine doses to visit Phuket from July 1 without having to undergo quarantine, as proposed by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)," Phiphat said.

"The TAT will have to discuss the matter with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) and the cabinet next week," he said.

Phuket will be the first and only province which will be exempted from quarantine from July 1.

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the plan to reopen these tourism provinces needs the support of local residents and the TAT will have to present details of where tourists would be allowed to visit for consideration by the CCSA next week.

"Phuket is better-equipped to serve as the sandbox model to accommodate tourists first as the government will expedite the two-dose vaccination process for at least 70 per cent of the population in Phuket before July 1," Yuthasak said.

About 100,000 foreign tourists are expected to arrive in Phuket between April and June and more foreign arrivals are expected from July onward, he said.

In total, about 6.5 million foreign visitors are expected to arrive this year after the reopening of the country, Yuthasak said, adding that an early reopening for vaccinated foreign tourists will help with a quick economic recovery.

According to the sandbox proposal, the reopening plan in Phuket will depend largely on vaccine allocation to the tourist island province. Herd immunity must be achieved by inoculating 70 per cent of the population before foreign visitors are allowed in by the reopening date.

Under the proposal, at least 466,587 residents living on Phuket island need to receive two doses each. The proposal aims to secure 933,174 doses.

To reach the herd immunity goal within a specific time frame, the first round of inoculations should start on April 15, while the second should be rolled out from May 15.

Under the plan, tourists who want to join the proposed quarantine-free programme are required to show a vaccine certificate, vaccine passport or International Air Transport Association (IATA) travel pass.

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