Bangkok, Jul 1 (EFE).- Thailand officially reopened to international tourists on Thursday after more than a year of closed borders, and on a day that saw new highs in both daily Covid-19 cases and in deaths.
The island of Phuket is being used as a pilot program to reintroduce international tourism without quarantine, but with several measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
A total of 249 foreign tourists from Israel, Abu Dhabi and Qatar were to be the first to arrive Thursday in Phuket, a region economically dependent on tourism and which has seen arrivals plummet as a result of borders being closed since March last year.
Visitors must be inoculated with two vaccine doses and show a recent negative Covid test result prior to boarding.
Upon arrival in Phuket, travelers, who must have accommodation reserved and medical insurance covering treatment for the virus, will undergo another PCR test and will be transferred to their hotels.
Once they receive a negative result, they will be able to move freely around the island, although they will have to record their movements through mobile apps and/or a tracking bracelet, or they will be fined.
Tourists must stay in Phuket for at least 14 days and pass another two PCR tests before they can visit the rest of the country.
If successful, local authorities plan to replicate the pilot program, known as the Phuket Sandbox, on other islands and tourist cities in Thailand, whose prime minister plans to fully reopen the country in October.
Thursday’s reopening came as authorities announced record daily highs of 57 deaths and 5,533 new Covid-19 cases. It was the second consecutive day of fatality highs. Although there were 9,635 cases reported on May 17, 71 percent of those were inmates after testing began in prisons.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Thailand has recorded 2,080 fatalities and 264,834 infections. Of those, 1,929 deaths and 235,971 cases have been recorded since Apr. 1, when its accelerating third wave began.
Thailand’s third wave is linked to the Delta variant of the virus, with its epicenter in capital Bangkok, while its vaccination campaign progresses slowly and erratically.
The tourism sector is one of the key engines of the Thai economy, responsible for around 20 percent of its gross domestic product, and which has suffered the greatest losses from the pandemic.
In 2020 arrivals plummeted 85 percent, from the 39.9 million tourists who arrived in 2019 to 6.7 million who entered last year before the border closed in March. Just 28,700 entered between January and April of this year, according to official data. EFE