Thailand to Resume Quarantine-Free Entry for Foreigners in February

Kunnawut Boonreak and Nontarat Phaicharoen
2022.01.20
Chiang Mai, Thailand, and Bangkok
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Thailand to Resume Quarantine-Free Entry for Foreigners in February A tourist arrives at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Nov. 1, 2021.
AP

Thailand will restart its quarantine-waiver program for fully vaccinated foreign visitors on Feb. 1, the coronavirus task force announced Thursday, as COVID-19 infections fall and the nation looks to revive the lucrative tourism industry ravaged by the pandemic.

The so-called “Test and Go” program, introduced in November 2021 as an alternative to a two-week hotel quarantine, was suspended last month amid the global spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant of COVID-19.

The policy will apply to double-vaccinated visitors only, Taweesilp Wissanuyothin, spokesman for the Center for the COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), said after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

“Thailand will be open to travelers from all countries again. The ‘Test and Go’ policy had been stopped on Dec. 21 to prevent the Omicron variant,” Taweesilp said.

The tourism sector, which contributes to about one-fifth of the gross domestic product, has been hit hard by the outbreak of COVID-19, which was first detected in Thailand in mid-January 2020.

In 2019, almost 40 million people visited the Southeast Asian country – a number that fell to about 700,000 last year. Half of the 2021 visitors arrived in less than two months when “Test and Go” was active, according to the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.

“This new policy requires those who enter the country under the program to do an RT-PCR test on arrival and again five days later. They have to book a hotel with Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus certification for Day 1 and Day 5. The travelers will pay for the test and accommodation,” Taweesilp told reporters in Bangkok.

He said visitors also must agree to download an app that tracks their whereabouts.

“In case there are more infections or the situation changes, there will be a reassessment for inbound travelers and an adjustment of the sandbox scheme,” Taweesilp said.

The sandbox is another quarantine waiver program where a vaccinated visitor agrees to stay in one designated area for a week. It has been established in tourist areas on the islands of Phuket and Koh Samui and mainland regions of Krabi and Phang-Nga.

In Chiang Rai, the owner of a local guesthouse questioned government efforts to control the pandemic.

“The government changes measures very often and every time, they lack effective management. They do not consult anyone and just change whenever they want to,” Hataichanok Inthawong, who owns Pun Hug Homestay, told BenarNews. “We have bookings by tourists, especially foreigners, who have canceled because of the confusion.”

COVID-19 cases

Health officials reported 8,129 new COVID-19 infections and 19 deaths on Thursday.

Since the pandemic began two years ago, more than 2.35 million have been infected and nearly 22,000 have died while more than two-thirds of Thais have been fully vaccinated and about 15 percent have received booster shots.

The task force spokesman said the mortality rate was lower than projected and less than a third of the nation’s 147,000 hospital beds are occupied.

“Since the situation is gradually improving, there is going to be more relaxation of the restriction measures,” Taweesilp said.

Thai authorities also extended the period when restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol by two hours, to 11 p.m., starting Jan. 24, in major cities and tourism centers. The ban on bars and nightclubs continues.

The announcement followed a warning by the nation’s public health permanent secretary to foreign travelers that they will be responsible for all medical costs should they be infected by COVID-19 once “Test and Go” resumes.

“We will no longer subsidize. The visitors must buy insurance that covers all treatments or purchase additional health insurance when they arrive here,” Secretary Kiattiphum Wongrajit told reporters.

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