Bloomberg News is freshly reporting that Thailand is discussing with China the possibility of establishing a quarantine-free travel bubble as nearly as January upcoming. Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said that the Special Tourist Visa (STV) initiative to bring Chinese tourists by charter plane is being piloted next week with the arrival of two flights from Guangzhou to Phuket. But they will be subject to 14 or 10 day quarantine, subject to a pending policy decision by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.
If all goes well and there is no Covid-19 crisis in the meantime, the mandatory quarantine will be replaced by coronavirus testing in the new year. The Chinese visitors will also be required to use a mobile tracking application 24/7. If that proposed travel bubble is successful, Thai authorities will look to extend the quarantine-less vacations with other Asian countries such as South Korea, Singapore and Japan.
The reopening of leisure tourism is controversial in many Thai quarters. Public opinion polls consistently show that most Thais are against the hasty reintroduction of vacationers because coronavirus may follow in their wake. Government sources hope that, by limiting travel bubbles to countries or regions with a good success rate in controlling the pandemic – which thus excludes the United States and most of Europe – much of the hostility will evaporate.
Amongst matters to be decided with the Chinese authorities before the flights without quarantine are finalized are the scope and costs of travel insurance, if any, the type of mobile contact application to be used and the cities or resorts to be visited. Pattaya authorities are hopeful of being included as Chonburi province has comprehensive medical facilities to deal with an unexpected virus outbreak.
A current concern is the outbreak of recent anti-government demonstrations in Bangkok to try and force the resignation of the prime minister. A state of emergency has now been declared in the metropolis, giving the police and the army a freer hand, and authorities say they are confident of managing the demonstrations which are still small-scale compared with political crises in the past. But there is obviously apprehension that street demonstrations could scare away potential tourists and delay the country’s urgent need to restart significant tourist income.