The following is a feature article which gathers statements that have been made so far by the Thai Government in regards to Covid-19 and a Covid-19 vaccine.
In countries across the world Covid-19 vaccines have begun to go out and people are slowly beginning to visit their local doctor or hospital and take the vaccine with many, many more expected over the next several months.
This, of course, has increased the number of comments and questions we have had at The Pattaya News in regards to “Will a Covid-19 vaccine let me enter Thailand without (or with a reduced) quarantine/restrictions/requirements?”
To currently enter Thailand one needs a number of requirements, with the biggest hurdle for most people being a mandatory fourteen day quarantine at a variety of alternative state quarantine hotels at their expense. This is in addition to Covid-19 insurance worth at least 100,000 USD, a fit to fly certificate and a certificate of entry for their local embassy, along with a Covid-19 test. Although nearly every country can now visit, high financial requirements have been dropped and the amount of paperwork is being streamlined and made simpler, the quarantine requirement remains.
Thailand has been maintaining a strong “elimination” strategy of the virus, which means that even one locally spread case is unacceptable vs. the suppression strategy of many countries. Thailand is appealing to many people currently as, internally, there are no lockdowns, business restrictions, etc. and all venues, including entertainment and leisure are open, albeit with requirements on wearing masks and some other Covid-19 protection measures. Thailand even has announced that New Years Eve countdown parties and festivals can take place and nightclubs have been open since July.
Due to these factors, it is understandable why many people want in with the Pattaya News getting dozens of messages a week. However, the quarantine, insurance and cost is unacceptable for many for a variety of different reasons, including time. The current process to get into Thailand, although significantly better than several months ago, is designed at appealing to long term tourists/snowbirds, digital nomads, regular residents, retirees, those with Thai family, girlfriends, wives, kids, etc. A traditional “one to two week tourist” would not be able to maintain the quarantine, especially if they have work obligations in their home country.
So, back to the original question…Will a Covid-19 vaccine let me enter Thailand without (or with a reduced) quarantine/restrictions/requirements?
At this time, the answer is No. (There also is no answer on if a vaccine will be required in the future to enter Thailand, this is a complicated question also as vaccines may not be available in some poor countries for some time.)
Those who have followed scientific information on Covid-19 vaccines know that at this point it is unknown by how much the vaccine stops potential spread of the virus/ability for one to carry it and be infectious, although it is known the level of protection for oneself. With Thailand following the “elimination” strategy, a spread of the virus before they are able to vaccinate their own vulnerable population would be unacceptable. The World Health Organization is studying vaccines ability to stop the spread of the virus, not just protection, but this data will likely not be available for months.
Thailand has stated they will not be starting to vaccinate their population until April/May due to a variety of reasons but primarily based on supply vs. demand. The Prime Minister, Prayut Chan O’Cha, has stated the government is looking at ways to move forward the timetable as they are well aware that restarting international tourism is a significant driver of the Thai economy.
Thailand has already made many moves to make the process to enter the country easier as stated above, but the quarantine aspect is highly unlikely to vanish for several months, although there is a chance of reduction based on what is happening around the world with the virus situation. Meanwhile, both top tourism and hospitality industry executives are pushing for opening borders soon (especially with the peak tourism season of Songkran and Chinese New Year approaching), but Thai doctors are strongly against this until the factors above (study of protection of infection to others, vaccinating Thais) can take place.
What about travel bubbles for low risk countries that have the virus under control officially like Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, etc?
Another good question, and one the Thai Tourism Authority and hospitality industry is pushing hard for some action on, especially China. However, prominent doctors with the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration have shown that, if anything, they are being exceedingly cautious. They have made it this far without a major outbreak in the country and, other than their tourism and hospitality related industries, the rest of the Kingdom is open even as many countries have second, or even third, draconian business destroying lockdowns over the holidays. Thailand is determined to not have to shut down again and impact the rest of their economy. Travel bubbles in the future are possible, but likely only as the virus begins to come under control globally.
It is likely that quarantines will eventually be reduced/eliminated from low risk countries but not in the IMMEDIATE future.
The Pattaya News is aware this isn’t the answer many people want, however, the situation has improved greatly over the past several months. Just a few months ago only foreigners with a work permit in some fields could enter at one point. At another point one had to have 500,000 baht in a bank account for six months. At a previous point only low risk countries (mostly China) could come. All those requirements have now been dropped/relaxed and as more people get vaccinated globally it is likely that Thailand will start to re-open, but as with everything in the pandemic they will be cautious, watch what other countries do and take it a slow step by step vs. a giant leap.