The Thai government has announced that it will stop allowing quarantine-free travel to Thailand through the so called “Test and Go” program, in light of the global spread of omicron, the highly infectious COVID-19 variant.
The now suspended “Test & Go” program, launched in November, applied to fully vaccinated travelers from 63 countries (with low infection rates) as part of the Thailand’s efforts to revive the tourism sector.
However the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that foreign visitors can still gain entry into Thailand under the Phuket Sandbox scheme and by using Alternative Quarantine (AQ) services.
The country will continue to accept Thailand Pass applications for visits with quarantine, or arrivals through the Phuket Sandbox, with registrations required at least one week prior to travel.
Some 200,000 people had already been approved prior to the announcement and will be permitted entry under the Test & Go scheme, but must get tested twice using the RT-PCR method, first on arrival and again on the seventh day of their trip. The costs for both tests will be covered by the Thai government.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the following new measures will apply for all applicants to Thailand Pass:
- Applicants who have already received their Thailand Pass QR Code can enter Thailand under the scheme they have registered.
- Applicants who have already registered, but have not yet received their QR Code must wait for their Thailand Pass to be considered / approved. Once approved, they can enter Thailand under the scheme they have registered.
- New applicants will no longer be able to register for the Test and Go and Sandbox schemes (except for Phuket Sandbox). Thailand Pass will accept new applicants seeking to enter Thailand under the Alternative Quarantine (AQ) or Phuket Sandbox schemes only.
- Passengers who will arrive in Thailand under the Test and Go and Sandbox schemes must now undergo a 2nd COVID-19 test using the RT-PCR technique (not ATK self-test) at government-designated facilities (no additional cost).
Due to the lack of tourists, the Thai economy shrank 6.1% in 2020 and is expected to grow by only 1% in 2021 according to World Bank latest forecast.
Economic activity is expected to return to its pre-pandemic levels end-2022, with progress on vaccinations and a resumption of tourist arrivals providing support for the recovery.
Holiday plans upended
The World Health Organization (WHO) is now recommending that people cancel some of their holiday plans as the Omicron coronavirus variant spreads rapidly across the world.
According to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, difficult decisions needed to be made as there is now evidence that the new variant is “spreading significantly faster” than the previous dominant Delta strain.
Many nations have already taken action to curb the Omicron spread, including returning to travel restrictions.
Singapore is halting sales of new tickets for inbound flights and buses under the country’s quarantine-free entry programs, the government said on Wednesday, due to growing fears of the omicron coronavirus variant.
Singapore started opening vaccinated travel lanes in September, allowing fully inoculated passengers from selected locations to enter the city-state without the need for quarantine on arrival.