World News

Thailand relaxes travel curbs for tourists from over 50 countries

A man wearing a protective face mask walks as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Chinatown, one of the city's top tourist spots, in Bangkok, Thailand March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/Files

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand on Thursday eased travel restrictions for citizens from 56 countries in a bid to boost the country’s pandemic-hit tourism industry, though visitors will be required to undergo a mandatory two-week hotel quarantine.

Tourists from countries including Australia, France and the United States can travel without visas, but would need a certificate to show they were free of COVID-19 72 hours before travel and a place at a quarantine hotel, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for Thailand’s COVID-19 taskforce said.

Visitors would then be subject to a two-week quarantine period after arriving, he said, adding that the normal 30-day visa would be extended to 45 days.

While in quarantine, arrivals would undergo three COVID-19 tests, up from two required previously, Taweesin said, adding that more testing could potentially lead to shorter quarantine times in the future.

The revisions come as the tourism-reliant economy struggles to encourage more domestic activity, but an ongoing travel ban continues to keep most foreign tourists away.

“The entry of tourists will stimulate the economy,” Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tanee Sangrat, told Reuters.

Travellers from other countries not included in Thursday’s announcement could still be eligible for a 90-day special tourist visa and a certificate of entry.

Thailand’s entry restrictions have helped keep its COVID-19 cases at a low 4,281, but caused widespread economic damage and many job losses.

“We are confident in the Thai public health system, before this we were not sure, but now we are confident in the system,” Tanee said.

Additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Ed Davies