Health officials in Thailand have been forced to perform an embarrassing backflip on new pandemic border rules that effectively reintroduced a vaccine mandate on most foreign visitors. The u-turn came less than 24 hours after the new rules were supposed to have come into effect.
On Monday, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul called a press conference to hurriedly announce that the reinstatement of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate had been cancelled with immediate effect.
The rules came into effect so quickly that there were some reports of airlines refusing to let passengers board flights to Thailand even after the vaccine mandate had been cancelled. Computer systems used by airlines to verify border entry requirements have since been updated.
On Sunday, Thailand reintroduced a vaccine requirement that meant non-Thai citizens were meant to show proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before being allowed to board flights to the country.
The mandate had been brought back as a response to surging COVID-19 case numbers in China but applied to all foreign visitors regardless of the country they were flying from.
In fact, by Sunday, the mandate had already been watered down so as to allow unvaccinated foreign visitors to come to Thailand if they could show proof of recent COVID-19 recovery or a letter from their healthcare provider with a valid reason why they weren’t vaccinated.
Then, at the last minute, Thai authorities said visitors didn’t actually have to show any proof before boarding a flight to Thailand but would instead have to take a COVID-19 test on arrival.
By Monday, however, even that loophole was no longer necessary as the vaccine mandate had already been fully abandoned.
In a statement, the Tourism Authority of Thailand said that it wanted to “clarify that Thailand continues to welcome all international tourists under the fully-reopen-to-tourism policy”.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.