Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Thailand launches yacht quarantine for tourists

The scheme is one of several ways Thailand is trying to tempt tourists back while keeping its population safe.

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Visitors to Thailand can now spend their mandatory two-week coronavirus quarantine on a yacht in a move aimed at reviving the country’s struggling tourism industry, devastated by the pandemic.

The government is hoping that the new yacht initiative will bring in 1.8 billion baht (US$58 million) in badly needed tourism revenue.

The Southeast Asian nation relies heavily on tourists but banned them in March last year to limit the virus spreading.

Having managed a campaign against Covid-19 widely regarded as one of Asia’s most successful, since October the country has been trying to find ways of bringing tourists back safely.

The Thai government’s Digital Economy Promotion Agency (Depa) announced on Monday that the yacht quarantine programme will allow visitors with a negative coronavirus test to spend their time on board a yacht or small cruise ship around Phuket.

The pandemic saw the number of tourists on the popular tourist island plummet from around 50,000 a day to just hundreds.

Around 100 yachts are expected to take part once the scheme sets sail properly.

Tourists will be required to wear a smart wristband that monitors vital signs including temperature and blood pressure, as well as tracking the wearer’s location via GPS. The device can transmit information even at sea, within a 10km radius, the government said.

Last week, Thailand’s tourism minister said he would also propose a plan for foreigners to undertake quarantine in popular tourist areas, including beach resorts. The hotel quarantine plan is expected to start in April or May in popular provinces including Phuket, Krabi and Chiang Mai.

Meanwhile, the Tourism Association of Thailand reported Sunday that the first round of tourists to take advantage of a new golf quarantine program completed their two-week lockdown. The group had arrived from South Korea in mid-February.

The public health ministry in January added golf courses in areas including Kanchanaburi province to the list of designated quarantine locations, giving golfers an alternative to staying cooped up in a hotel. Packages start at roughly 90,000 baht (US$2,900), including green and cart fees.

Thailand will from next month reduce its mandatory quarantine from 14 to seven days for foreigners arriving in the country who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, its health minister said on Monday.

Vaccinations must be administered within three months of the travel period and visitors will still be required to show negative Covid-19 test results within three days of their departure, he minister told a news conference. Those not yet inoculated but with coronavirus-free certificates would be quarantined for 10 days, he said.

“Foreigners travelling to Thailand with vaccination certificates in accordance with the requirements of each brands, will need to quarantine for only seven days,” he said, referring to the doses needed to be effective.

Thailand’s flight limits, its strict entry requirements and mandatory quarantine for all arrivals have been central to its success in limiting the spread of the virus to just over 26,000 cases and 85 deaths.

Those curbs have decimated its vital tourism sector, however, prompting widespread jobs losses and business closures and contributing to the country’s deepest economic traction in over two decades.

The country received close to 40 million visitors in 2019.

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