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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Thailand opens its borders to more international visitors

Coronavirus Outbreak Thailand Tourism
Sakchai Lalit/AP
Health workers collect nasal swabs from local residents for coronavirus testing in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, July 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

This week, more countries are beginning to ease entry restrictions for vaccinated travelers. That includes Australia, Israel, and a Southeast Asian economy dependent on international tourism: Thailand.

International flights are landing in Thailand again — 61 planes touching down in Bangkok on Monday.

The first morning arrival was from Tokyo — but most of the first-day flights came from Europe.

Vaccinated travelers from more than 60 countries are now allowed to visit Thailand without spending any time in quarantine.

The beach resort island of Phuket has allowed vaccinated travelers to skip quarantine since July.

Residents in Phuket and other tourism centers are more heavily vaccinated than those elsewhere in the country — where rates are well below 50%.

COVID case numbers and fatalities have declined since peaking this summer, but the delta variant took a heavy toll in Thailand — and it’s affecting some attitudes about loosening restrictions.

The Bangkok Post reports a recent Department of Health poll found more than 90% of those surveyed are worried about re-opening.

Chief among the concerns: the potential for a new outbreak.

Government officials worry about the economy — saying the country has lost about 3 million tourism-related jobs — as well as an estimated $50 billion in revenue.

One other lingering question mark for the travel sector: when restrictions will be loosened in Thailand’s biggest market for tourists: China.

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