Thailand suspends quarantine-free entry, Latest Travel News - The New Paper

Thailand suspends quarantine-free entry

BANGKOK - Thailand will suspend its quarantine-free entry scheme from today amid concerns over the Omicron variant.

Foreign visitors who had earlier registered for the "Test and Go" scheme can still enter the country without quarantine, but have to take an additional polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on the seventh day of their trip at government-designated facilities.

Deputy government spokesman Rachada Dhnadirek said this second PCR test would be sponsored by the Thai government.

The suspension of the scheme for vaccinated foreign travellers will last until Jan 4 when the situation will be reviewed.

It means that other travellers who want to enter Thailand have to undergo a seven-to 14-day quarantine period, depending on their vaccination status and originating country.

They can also opt for the Phuket Sandbox scheme, under which visitors are free to travel around the country after spending one week on the resort island.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday said officials told him they were capable of handling any possible outbreak stemming from incoming travellers. "They said we can handle Omicron, which is infectious but which has mild symptoms," he told reporters.

According to officials, some 200,000 people had already registered for the "Test and Go" and sandbox schemes before the change was announced yesterday.

The "Test and Go" scheme started only last month and Thailand was banking on it to revive its battered tourism industry. The country welcomed some 40 million visitors in 2019 before the pandemic.

The suspension was announced one day after Thailand discovered its first local transmission of the Omicron variant, involving a vaccinated couple, with the woman infected by her husband who had travelled overseas. At least 63 people in Thailand have been infected with the Omicron variant.

Just last week, the government eased rules for New Year countdown events, allowing those with 1,000 revellers or more to go on if fully-vaccinated participants provide a negative antigen rapid test. Open-air restaurants were also allowed to serve alcohol overnight, until 1am on New Year's Day.