Even now, Bangkok and other areas have a 10pm to 4am curfew and other restrictions to try to tame a virulent third wave of the coronavirus that began in April this year.
“The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and diseases, much as we have learnt to live with other diseases with treatments and vaccinations,” Mr Prayuth said.
He said he has instructed the government’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration and the Public Health Ministry to urgently consider the plan by the end of the week.
The Centre will also finalise which countries will be on the no-quarantine list.
All visitors will still need to show negative RT-PCR test results before embarking for Thailand and will require another test on arrival, after which they will be free to travel around Thailand.
Visitors from other countries will still have to quarantine and meet other requirements.
Mr Prayuth said the authorities will also consider allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages in restaurants as well as the operation of entertainment venues from December 1 to support the revitalisation of the tourism and leisure sectors during New Year’s celebrations.
“We will have to track the situation very carefully, and see how to contain and live with that situation because I do not think that the many millions who depend on the income generated by the travel, leisure and entertainment sector can possibly afford the devastating blow of a second lost New Year holiday period,” he said.
The government targets $60 million (1.5 trillion baht) in revenue from the tourism sector in 2021, spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said last week.
Thailand recorded $137 million (3.4 trillion baht) income from the tourism sector in 2019.
In June, Mr Prayuth had spoken about reopening the country around mid-October.
The efforts to reopen had been hindered by a late-starting national vaccination campaign.
Mr Prayuth’s critics charged he failed to secure adequate vaccine supplies in a timely manner, and his government has had to scramble since mid-year to acquire more.
Last month, the government said it plans to secure 178.2 million vaccine doses in 2021, and targets at least 62 million people, or around 90 per cent of the population, to be fully vaccinated this year.