Thailand doubles 2021 visitor numbers after easing quarantine rules

Travellers walk at Don Mueang International Airport as the country reopens its borders to vaccinated tourists in Chiang Mai, Thailand November 23, 2021. Picture taken November 23, 2021. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

BANGKOK, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Thailand has received more than 100,000 visitors after launching a scheme earlier this month that allowed vaccinated tourists to skip quarantine, an official said on Friday, nearly as high as the number of arrivals in the first ten months combined.

From next month, Thailand plans to deploy rapid antigen tests rather than PCR tests to shorten wait times for tourists, said coronavirus taskforce spokesman Taweesin Wisanuyothin, in a move hoped to further boost the vital sector.

But numbers still remain far below the norm - Thailand received 40 million arrivals in 2019 - and some businesses and returning tourists have complained about virus restrictions that remain in place.

For example, in tourist destinations like Bangkok, pubs, bars and nightclubs are closed and restaurants cannot sell alcoholic drinks after 9 p.m.

These venues have poor circulation and have been sites of previous clusters, Taweesin said.

Health officials are working with these business to implement measures including testing staff every three days that could allow them to reopen in the future, he said.

Thailand has reported a total of nearly 2.1 million infections and 20,645 COVID-related fatalities, the majority of them since April.

Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by John Geddie

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