*Further Update January 9, 2023: In a last-minute decision, Thailand decided to cancel the reintroduction of proof of vaccination and remain open restriction-free. This causes mass confusion for many tourists, including some who would have already canceled travel plans. As of today, Thailand remains fully open, but proceed with caution as this last week has shown us anything is possible.
We are currently writing an article outlining all the details and it will be published soon.
*Updated January 7, 2023: It has been confirmed by multiple news sources that starting January 9, 2023 all non-Thai arrivals over the age of 18 must show proof of being fully vaccinated or a letter/certificate from a doctor showing recovery within the past 180 days.
After more than 150 countries worldwide dropped all Covid-related travel restrictions in 2022, Thailand now sets a worrying precedent by taking a step back and stating they intend to reinstate restrictions.
Thailand joined many other nations in dropping all Covid-related restrictions in October 2022 and reopening for normal travel.
But just three short months later, restrictions may come back again, according to the Bangkok Post.
Thai Public Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul stated that all visitors entering Thailand must be fully vaccinated in order to enter the country, a restriction he hopes will come into effect later this week.
Fully vaccinated means two doses of most vaccines, or one shot of Johnson & Johnson. Booster shots are not required.
Additionally, travelers must have proof of health insurance covering Covid if they are traveling onward to a country that requires a negative Covid test result for entry.
Why Is Thailand Bringing Back Restrictions?
According to Anutin Charnvirakul, the Public Health Minister of Thailand, the move to bring back restrictions for all travelers comes after many countries that were previously open to all travelers with no restrictions started re-imposing restrictions just for Chinese travelers.
After China ended its austere Covid-zero policies in early January allowing the Chinese people to freely travel again, countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Italy, Japan, and many more re-imposed travel restrictions only for visitors coming from China.
When Will They Come Into Effect?
As of today, January 6, 2023, Thailand is still showing on IATA and other travel restriction sites as fully open, but if the proposal by the minister gets final Thai Cabinet approval, could come into effect as early as January 8, 2023.
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While this is indeed discriminatory towards Chinese travelers, Charnvirakul appears to be missing the point by re-imposing restrictions not just for Chinese tourists, but for all tourists.
On his attempt at equity, Charnvirakul stated: “The principle is there will not be any discrimination against a particular country because Covid-19 is spreading in all countries and the strains are similar.”
A better way to handle the reactionary move of re-instating restrictions just for Chinese visitors that many countries are following right now would have been to keep Thailand restriction-free for visitors from all nations.
But instead, all visitors entering Thailand may soon need to show proof of being fully vaccinated.
Additionally, anyone who is traveling onward from Thailand to a country that requires a negative Covid test for entry (such as China) must demonstrate proof of health insurance covering Covid.
According to Charnvirakul, this ensures that should travelers receive a positive test result in Thailand, they will have coverage for healthcare while they quarantine in the country until they receive a negative test result.
Although the Public Health Minister insists that this requirement is also not targeted at Chinese tourists, it certainly seems that way.
What Were Thailand’s Previous Restrictions?
As of October 1, 2022, Thailand dropped all entry requirements for visitors and returned to normal tourism.
Prior to that, the country had a series of strict requirements in place since March 2020, most recently proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test in order to enter the country.
After having a strict mask mandate for over two years, Thailand also dropped its indoor and outdoor mask mandate in June 2022.
Although new entry restrictions have been added, it does not appear that the mask mandate is coming back.
Should You Still Travel To Thailand?
The reinstatement of entry restrictions for Thailand shows a major regression in what had been a positive trend of the majority of countries around the world dropping all such requirements.
Now, this Southeast Asian nation is setting a concerning precedent in the name of “anti-discrimination” towards Chinese tourists, while simultaneously discriminating against tourists of all nationalities (and yes, still including the Chinese.)
If you are looking for an alternative to Thailand that does not have any Covid-related requirements in place, all of these nations have scrapped vaccines, testing, and other restrictions:
As of the time of writing, none of these destinations have brought back additional Covid-related travel restrictions.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com