Apr 2, 2021
WHILE THE WORD “QUARANTINE” GENERALLY calls to mind rather spartan accommodations, Thailand has taken the concept in an entirely new—and decidedly more enjoyable—direction. What if, in lieu of an antiseptic hospital room, you could spend two weeks socially distancing while playing 18 holes on a pristine putting green or sipping champagne on a luxury yacht?
You might never want what’s as of April 1 a 10-day mandatory quarantine to end.
Thailand has just shortened its two-week quarantine for all new arrivals to 10 days for the majority of travelers. With vaccinations on the rise and case numbers still low, the government has been developing a gradual reopening plan. Unvaccinated visitors can still expect to be tested twice before leaving the quarantine zone. As for vaccinated visitors, under the Area Quarantine scheme, in participating parts of the country they will only need to quarantine for seven days and may be permitted to roam around hotel areas instead of staying confined to their rooms. And in July, vaccinated visitors who fly into Phuket should be able to do so sans quarantine at all.
Until then, luxe hotels who weren’t previously offering Alternative State Quarantine, such as Banyan Tree Phuket—which promises pool villas starting from US$4,600 for a solo traveler staying 11 nights—are jumping on the bandwagon. But the promise of a pampered lock-in goes plusher.
At Artitaya Country Club just south of Bangkok, visitors can while away their quarantine period practicing their putting on a top-notch golf course. While the US$2,240 price tag is far from cheap, it’s not much more of a splurge than staying at a regular hotel—and it’s a whole lot more fun. All guests are tested three days after arrival, then twice more before leaving, meaning it’s arguably just as safe as a conventional quarantine too.
High-rollers may want to take matters a step further and check out the trial yacht quarantine program, in which travelers who test negative for COVID-19 are allowed to spend the period on one of 100-plus sailing vessels. All passengers will need to wear special monitors to track their vital signs for any possible symptoms. After on the high seas, they’ll be cleared to head to dry land with a clean conscience.
Although Thailand may have been the second country to confirm the presence of COVID-19, both the World Health Organization and the United Nations have praised the nation’s effective measures in containing the pandemic. Part of that success has to do with the Thailand’s strictly enforced quarantine measures for incoming international travelers.
If all goes well over the next couple of months, both local and international tourists could be allowed to fly to Phuket without having to quarantine at all—provided they can show proof of a vaccine. The current plan is to ensure that at least 70 percent of the island’s 466,587 residents are vaccinated by that date. Epidemiologists agree that this would be sufficient to guarantee herd immunity, effectively eliminating the chances of exponential spread of the virus among the population.
It’s still early to make long-term predictions, but if Phuket’s quarantine-free reopening proves successful, the rest of Thailand may follow by October 1. For a nation that normally welcomes 40 million international visitors annually, COVID-19 has placed an enormous strain on Thailand’s once thriving hospitality scene. Particularly in Phuket, where nightlife, fine dining and beach resorts drive the local economy, the prospect of safely reopening is bringing much-needed hope to local residents.