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Thailand says it nears a COVID-19 vaccine passport, hopes to welcome tourists in Q3

Thailand says it nears a COVID-19 vaccine passport, hopes to welcome tourists in Q3

Tourists wear protective masks at the Emerald Buddha temple in Bangkok, Thailand on Mar 16, 2020. (File photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

BANGKOK: Thai authorities are preparing a plan to ease restrictions for travellers vaccinated against the coronavirus, senior officials said on Wednesday (Feb 24), as the country looks to revive a tourism industry battered by travel curbs.

Measures for vaccinated visitors would be introduced step-by-step and could include shortening the mandatory quarantine for all arrivals from two weeks to three days for those vaccinated, or waiving it entirely, Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said.

"We have to be fast because we want to start welcoming tourists in the third quarter," he told Reuters.

READ: Singapore discussing COVID-19 vaccine certification with other countries, says PM Lee

The TAT plans to begin selling tour packages after April.

The tourism ministry has also requested 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine for tourism workers in Chon Buri, Krabi, Phang Nga, Chiang Mai and Phuket.

The five provinces will from next month host "hotel area quarantine" programmes offering 5,000 to 6,000 rooms, where visitors can move around within hotel grounds instead of being confined to their rooms, according to tourism minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.

READ: Phuket plans private COVID-19 vaccination drive, aims for October reopening

The global vaccine roll-out has given hope to the pandemic-hit industry, which makes up about 11 per cent of Southeast Asia's second-largest economy.

In 2019, Thailand received about 40 million foreign tourists, who spent 1.91 trillion baht (US$63.60 billion).

That compared to just 6.7 million visitors last year and revenue of 332 billion baht, due largely to Thailand's tight limits on international commercial flights and visitors.

READ: 'A step in the right direction' - Thailand's tourism operators welcome special visa for foreigners

Since October it has allowed a limited number of tourists to return on long visas, including a group from South Korea for a new "golf quarantine" programme.

"This year, we expect about 5 million visitors, but next year it should jump because the vaccine will have helped, maybe 15 million," Phiphat told state television.

Arrivals could reach 30 million in 2023 and return to pre-pandemic levels the year after, he said.

Thailand on Wednesday received its first 200,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines.

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Source: Reuters/dv

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