Thailand reopened on Monday to fully vaccinated tourists arriving by air from 63 countries as it strives to revive its economy despite struggling to reduce Covid-19 case numbers.
Bangkok also lifted its nighttime curfew, which had been in place for four months, and will allow some restaurants to resume serving alcohol. Bars, nightclubs and entertainment venues will remain closed at least until December.
With the moves, Thailand became one of the first countries in Southeast Asia to reopen to tourists without requiring quarantine. Singapore opened in September to tourists from two countries without quarantine and has expanded its list to 10.
Indonesia opened Bali and two other islands last month but imposed so many restrictions, including four nights of quarantine, that foreign tourists have yet to arrive. Cambodia and Vietnam plan to reopen selected areas to foreign tourists at the end of November.
About a fifth of Thailand’s economy depends on tourism and, before the pandemic, it was one of the world’s top tourist destinations, drawing nearly 40 million visitors in 2019. People who depend on tourism for a living said that they were desperate for business and welcomed the prospect of foreigners returning.
“I am optimistic that by opening the country, our economic condition will improve,” said Rujira Komonsing, owner of a shoe shop in Bangkok’s sprawling Chatuchak market. “I see that we have to live with Covid. The disease will not go away.”
The government is reopening now, in time for the coming peak tourism season, even though it is struggling to contain a monthslong outbreak. On Monday, it reported 8,165 new cases. But merchants and tourism industry workers said that going hungry was a greater risk than Covid.
“I am not worried about the number of cases,” said Puncharee Wongraungaram, a ceramics vendor at Chatuchak, once a popular tourist destination. “We can’t afford to close the country any longer. People have expenses to pay and need to eat.”
The list of 63 points of origin that Thailand has deemed to be low risk includes the United States, China, India, Southeast Asia and much of Europe.
Fully vaccinated visitors from those areas will not have to undergo quarantine but must take a P.C.R. test on arrival and stay one night in an approved hotel while awaiting the result. If they test negative, they can travel around the country.
After a slow start in obtaining vaccines, Thailand’s reopening has followed an aggressive inoculation campaign, especially in popular tourist areas. Bangkok reports that about two-thirds of its population is fully vaccinated.