The Central Command Situation Administration (CCSA) approved easing restrictions as Thailand moves closer to reopening in November and December. Metro Bangkok will retain its “dark red” province status, with new curfew hours of 11 pm to 3 am taking effect tomorrow October 16, 2021. Alcohol sales are still prohibited in central Bangkok and across the country. On November 1, further limitations will be implemented including lifting the alcohol ban, as quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated visitors from several other countries would be eased. “Starting today, we will consider reopening Thailand and reducing restrictions on companies and activities,” Prayuth said.
The bureaucratic overlay of processing foreign travelers, however, has expanded to include The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Digital Government Development Agency, along with the Ministry of Public Health and the CCSA. The infamous “COE” (Certificate of Entry) will be phased out in favor of an online application process for “Thailand Pass” registration. Additional immigration forms TM 6 and TM 8 will also be implemented. The Pass will be accessible exclusively to those arriving via plane. It is unknown how much of the COE’s criteria will stay in the Pass application program. Two negative RT-PCR swab tests will remain needed prior to boarding and upon arrival in Thailand.
Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a CCSA spokesperson, said tourists from “low-risk” China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Singapore can visit the country without mandatory quarantine starting November 1. The fate of visitors from other “low-risk” countries is unknown, as is the status of the new Pass system. He said that 15 more provinces would be opened to fully vaccinated tourists, including metro Bangkok, Hua Hin, Krabi, and Phangnga. However, Chiang Mai was removed from the reopening list owing to an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 infections coming from a crowded central market and spreading across the province.
Confusion about new entry procedures, curfews, and lockdown restrictions is likely to persist, if not worsen, given Prime Minister Prayuth’s deadline for reopening. Immigration and public health procedures are flooded with paperwork and have proved to be irritating, time-consuming, and costly for a large number of visitors, both local and international. Launching a new web application platform is likely to be clumsy and glitchy and will need some time to function correctly. Chiang Mai’s breakout of cases serves as caution about how fragile and uncertain reopening preparations are. Thailand continues to report over 10,000 new cases each day, affecting virtually every region of the nation. PM Prayuth’s determination to ease restrictions even if infections rise is not shared by many public health professionals.