Thailand seeks to restart tourism on islands

Phuket and Koh Samui selected to potentially reopen

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A beach on the Thai island of Phuket last March 

A beach on the Thai island of Phuket last March  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Once the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is over, Thailand might seek to launch the reopening of its vital tourism sector on islands like Phuket and Koh Samui, reports said Thursday (May 21).

At present, tourists to the Southeast Asian country are completely banned, but as the daily coronavirus cases fall to single digits, its government is planning to gradually reopen.

Even though Phuket was the third worst-affected Thai province in the pandemic, government officials have still named it as a possible site for reopening, as tourists are easier to track on an island, according to the Bangkok Post.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) reportedly wants to attract tourists from countries removed from a list of “Disease-Infected Zones for COVID-19” to Thai provinces without any infections or without any new cases for 28 consecutive days.

The country is also interested in welcoming high-spending visitors from Asian countries to select areas under a quota. They would be able to avoid 14-day quarantines but would have to provide a health certificate, buy health insurance, and undergo a rapid coronavirus test on arrival, the Bangkok Post reported.

No timetable has yet been proposed for opening stores up to foreign visitors. Shopping malls in Thailand were allowed to reopen last Sunday (May 17), with visitors being asked to wear masks and register at the entrance.

Last year, Thailand welcomed 39 million foreign visitors, including 11 million from China. Predictions of 16 million for this year have been criticized as too optimistic, with analysts estimating 12 million to be a more realistic figure.