Thailand, Australia and Israel yesterday eased international border restrictions significantly for the first time in 18 months, offering a broad test of demand for travel worldwide amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The relaxation contrasts with tightening lockdowns elsewhere, notably in eastern Europe where infections have hit record numbers, and in parts of China, which has taken a zero-tolerance approach to the pandemic despite relatively few cases.
Hundreds of vaccinated foreign tourists arrived in the Thai capital for quarantine-free travel after the Southeast Asian nation approved visitors from more than 60 countries, including China and the US. Several European nations are also on the list as Thailand, one of Asia’s most popular destinations, looks to capitalise on northern hemisphere visitors keen to escape the winter blues.
Those hopes appeared to pay off early, with German tourist Simon Raithel and a group of friends among the first to arrive.
“Right now, in Europe, it’s quite cold,” said Raithel, 41, who planned to head to islands in the Thai south. “We just picked this flight and it is quite surprising that we are the first flight to arrive.”
In Sydney, hundreds of citizens were greeted by family and friends as they became the first to arrive from abroad without a permit or the need to quarantine since April 2020.
“(It’s a) little bit scary and exciting,” said Ethan Carter, who flew in from Los Angeles. “I’ve come home to see my mum ‘cause she’s not well.”
While travel is initially limited to just a few states and to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families and New Zealand nationals, it heralds a plan to re-open to international tourists and workers, both much needed to reinvigorate a fatigued nation.
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