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Oct. 1 Sees Thai Junkets Resume, But ‘Reopening’ of 5 Cities Not Openings at All

Calling it a 'reopening' is a joke. Welcome to Thailand, where you still do quarantine, have movements limited for weeks

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Five more Thailand cities are targeting Oct. 1 for reopening to foreign tourists, but Thai tour groups also can resume then as well.

Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn said the beginning of the traditional “high season” for tourism in the North, Northeast and Andaman coast will see the resumption of organized tours for Thai domestic tourists, but only in provinces, or specific districts, that have reached the 70-percent threshold for vaccination of the adult population.

Thai tours tend to be government-paid junkets for bureacrats who spend a couple hours “studying” and the rest of the time eating, shopping and, drinking, although the latter may stll be off the table when October arrives.

Oct. 1 also marks the start of “Phase 2” of Thailand’s slow and red-tape strangled reopening, Pipat said.

Bangkok, Chonburi, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Chiang Mai are targeting reopening, but, again, it depends on 70-percent vaccination. Pattaya is only at 40 percent and Chiang Mai even less.

What “reopening” means also remains unclear. It’s certainly not opening without restrictions to fully vaccination foreign tourists. Places like Pattaya will quarantine travelrs for three days in their hotels and only allow “sealed route” trips for two weeks.

Bars, nightclubs and alcohol in restaurants also likely still be forbidden. So “reopening” sounds a lot like the Phuket “sandbox”, which has failed to meet expectations of 100,000 arrivals between July 1 and Sept. 30.

Pipat said the first two months of the sandbox has attracted only 20,000 international visitors, most of them returing expats and Thais, not actual tourists. Only 360,000 room nights were booked.

Meanwhile, only 0.3 percent of sandbox tourists tested poostive for Covid-19. Yet, despite months of evidence showing foreigners are not bringing in more coronavirus to Thailand, the Phase 2 reopneing plans still impose draconian restrictions on arrivals.

Pipat said a third stage would cover 21 more provinces in all regions and the fourth phase was set for early next year in a bubble manner with neighboring countries.

However, the reopening of provinces would depend on the decisions of provincial health authorities, Piphat said.

This story contains reporting from the Thailand News Agency.