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Quarantine-free travel for fully-vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries; reopening of key tourist spots by December, and more. 

Thailand: Quarantine-free travel for fully-vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries, starting 1 Nov

Thailand is set to open up to international visitors from 1 November (Monday), without the need for quarantine, if they are fully vaccinated and arrive by air from low-risk countries.

In his national address on Monday (11 October 2021), Prime Minister and Defense Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said: "In the last one-and-half years, we have lived with some of the greatest peacetime challenges our country has ever faced in its history, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and one that has left nobody untouched and no country in the world undamaged.

"It has been one of the most painful experiences in my life, too: to make decisions that balance the saving of lives with the saving of livelihoods – a choice that is not always clearly separate, and where we may save lives, but commit those lives to the unbearable pain of trying to survive with little or no income; or where we may save livelihoods but commit one’s family, friends and neighbours to loss of life and the loss of their breadwinner.

"In facing this terrible choice, it was my decision that we could not allow a slow, wait-and-see approach to confronting the pandemic and let it claim the lives of so many of our countrymen and women, as we, ultimately, saw happen in so many other countries. As a result, I acted decisively on the advice of many of our outstanding public health experts to make our country one of the first in the world to move quickly with lockdowns and tight regulations."

He then noted that with everyone's efforts, "we have been among the most successful countries in the world in saving lives."

"But it has come at very great sacrifices of lost livelihoods, lost savings, and destroyed businesses – what we have all given up so that our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, friends, and neighbours may live today."

The PM further pointed out that the threat of a large scale, lethal spread of the virus in Thailand is now diminishing, "even though the risk of resurgence is always there, and even though there are still serious constraints on our hospital and medical staff capacities."

Thus, he shared, it is time for the country to ready itself to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and diseases. 

"The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and diseases, much as we have learnt to live with other diseases with treatments and vaccinations.

With that, opening up to international travel will be an important step forward, given that some of Thailand's "most important tourist source countries" have begun to ease their travel restrictions.

"With these developments, we must act quickly but still cautiously, and not miss the opportunity to entice some of the year-end and New Year holiday season travellers during the next few months to support the many millions of people who earn a living from our tourism, travel, and entertainment sectors, as well as the many other related sectors," PM Prayut explained.

From 1 November, visitors to Thailand will just need to show that they are COVID-free at their time of travel, with an RT-PCR test taken before departing their home country, and they would also need to do a test in Thailand, after which they will be free to move around the country.

This step will first begin with at least 10 countries on Thailand's low-risk, no-quarantine list, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, China, and the United States of America, and will be expanded by 1 December. This list will be extensive by 1 January, PM Prayut shared. Visitors from countries not on the list will "still be much welcomed", but with quarantine and other requirements.  

"I know this decision comes with some risk. It is almost certain that we will see a temporary rise in serious cases as we relax these restrictions. We will have to track the situation very carefully, and see how to contain and live with that situation, because I do not think that the many millions who depend on the income generated by the travel, leisure, and entertainment sector can possibly afford the devastating blow of a second lost New Year holiday period.

"But if, in the months ahead, we see an unexpected emergence of a highly dangerous new variant of the virus, then, of course, we must also act accordingly and proportionately when we see the threat. We know that this virus has surprised the world several times, and we must be ready for it to do so again."

According to the PM, since the adoption of Thailand's 120-day goal, vaccine deliveries have jumped threefold, from around 4mn doses in May to almost 12mn in July, then to almost 14mn in August, and will now run at over 20mn a month until the end of the year, totalling over 170mn doses, "far ahead" of the goals he had set.

Read PM Prayut's full speech here.  

Vietnam: Reopening of key tourist spots to fully-vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries by December

A recent report by Reuters has noted that Vietnam is planning to reopen its key tourist destinations from December, welcoming fully-vaccinated individuals from low-risk countries, ahead of full resumption by June 2022.

Per the report, this would include destinations such as Halong Bay and Hoi An, Dalat, as well as Nha Trang. A government statement was cited as saying: "We are only open when it's truly safe. We are moving step by step, cautiously but flexibly to adapt to real situations of the pandemic."

In further updates, Ho Chi Minh City will be further easing its social distancing measures from 15 October (Friday), as part of reopening plans for the economy.

As cited in a report by VNS, Phan Thị Thắng, Vice Chairwoman of the city People’s Committee, said: “We cannot eradicate the virus completely. We have to accept to live safely with it," urging the people to remain "highly cautious" and to comply strictly with the preventive measures.

This moves comes with close to 70% of the city's adults being fully vaccinated, and nearly 100% having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, she said. 

On the note of the reopening, VNS reported that the Government is planning a range of measures to aid businesses, which includes reducing corporate income tax by 30% for businesses with a turnover of up to VNĐ200bn, and a similar cut in value-added tax (between October 1 and December 31) for certain sectors.

Additionally, small business households will receive tax exemptions for Q3 and Q4 of 2021.

Apart from the above, Ho Chi Minh City will also allow tourism and travel in and out of the city from November, without quarantine, as long as the travellers are fully vaccinated, VNS reported.

Further updates cited include:

  • The city will provide conditions and support for job searches, such as aiding jobseekers in finding jobs for free.
  • Priority in vaccination will be given to workers  in provinces, looking to return to work in the city.
  • Non-essential services and businesses will remain prohibited.

Indonesia: Bali to open up to international travellers in October

Tourist hotspot Bali is set to reopen to international arrivals this month, first opening up to travellers from selected countries starting 14 October, CNN has reported.

This was announced by Minister of Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Panjaitan last week, however the countries allowed were not stated.

Per the report, the minister said this reopening will move ahead provided the airport is able to fulfil requirements for quarantine, testing, and COVID response. He said: "Every international arrival passenger must have proof of booking a hotel for quarantine for a minimum of eight days at their own expense."

The minister added that Indonesia remains "selective in allowing which foreigners can enter Indonesia." Currently, only visitors from South Korea, China, Japan, the United Arab Emirates such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and New Zealand, are allowed to enter based under "highly specific circumstances.."

India: #ICYMI Tourist Visas to be granted to foreigners entering through chartered flights from 15 Oct

India's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will begin granting Tourist Visas to foreigners coming to India through chartered flights, effective October 15 2021. 

In a statement on Thursday (7 October 2021), the MHA said foreign tourists, carriers bringing them into India, and all other stakeholders at landing stations are to adhere to all due protocols and norms relating to COVID-19, as notified by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare from time to time.

Currently, foreigners are only allowed to enter and stay in India on any kind of Indian visa other than the Tourist Visa.

In making this decision, the MHA consulted all major stakeholders like the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Tourism and various State Governments where foreign tourists are expected to arrive.

While the above applies to tourists entering on chartered flights, MHA has noted that those entering India by flights other than chartered aircrafts will be able to do so from 15 November 2021.

[Original update: India to grant Tourist Visas to foreigners entering through chartered flights effective 15 Oct 2021, published on HRO on 8 October 2021]

Photo / 123RF

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