Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul on Monday was more cautious when he confirmed that the government was moving towards endemic status but stressed that conditions must be right in all provinces and that decision-makers must listen to medical and scientific panels set up to advise them under law.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, on Monday, struck a positive note about the country’s performance in attracting incoming foreign tourism and fears over the impact of the Songkran holidays on the virus situation as the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) is due to meet on Friday the 22nd April to discuss a move to abolish RT-PCR testing for incoming tourists and at which more radical proposals may be tabled by the Minister of Tourism and Sports, Mr Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, to altogether abolish the ‘Test and Go’ and ‘Thailand Pass’ controlled entry regime for incoming travellers who are vaccinated. At the same time, a voice critical of such easing of restrictions in the past, Dr Thira Woratanarat of Chulalongkorn University, also on Monday, warned that Thailand currently has a rising death rate from the virus and that the country’s prevention policies need to be reassessed on the basis of placing more value on human life.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha (centre) on Monday struck a more optimistic note about the country’s ability to attract more incoming tourists and fears of a COVID-19 wave after Songkran. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul (inset left) said it would take a further two weeks to assess the effects of the Songkran holidays on the trend of the virus in advance of a key meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Friday, April 22nd when a decision removing RT-PCR testing by May 1st will be examined and an expected more radical proposal from the Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn who said last week that he was preparing plans to scrap the whole controlled entry regime for vaccinated foreign tourists by May 1st and would be presenting this for approval. Meanwhile, Dr Thira Woratanarat (inset right) of Chulalongkorn University has warned of rising levels of death from Covid-19 in Thailand and called for more respect for human life from decision-makers.

On Monday, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul, speaking at Government House in Bangkok, told reporters that it would take approximately two weeks to assess the impact of the Songkran holiday period on the trajectory of the government’s fight against COVID-19 and plans to ease restrictions, particularly on incoming foreign tourism to the kingdom.

Is it time to reopen fully with normal visitor access? Have your say here as a Thai Examiner reader (Click to open) 

However, he confirmed that the government is committed to declaring an endemic status for the disease in due course but would make sure that conditions in each province justify such a move.

Travel sector calls for endemic status, scrapping of Thailand Pass and full normality on entry to the country

Minister Anutin seemed to emphasise a more devolved approach to the virus emergency than a national one, at this point, as the process moves forward.

Each province to monitor the virus, conditions to be right everywhere before endemic status is declared

He stressed that each province now has its own approach to detecting cases and monitoring infection levels, deaths and vaccination figures.

Commenting on the figures that he had seen recently for COVID-19 infections, he said that they were in line with expectations and international standards.

However, he indicated that the proposal to replace an RT-PCR test on arrival for visitors to Thailand on May 1st with an antigen test was still a matter that had to be decided by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) based on an assessment of the latest data.

Plans to ease pandemic related restrictions face a review by scientific advisory panels set up by law

He said the government had prepared plans to step up efforts to protect the most vulnerable in society and to have an adequate supply of medical treatments such as the drug Favipiravir, an antiviral drug that has been used extensively to treat symptoms of COVID-19 in Thailand by the health service.

He said that while the government has signalled a commitment to ease COVID-19 restrictions further for incoming foreign travellers to boost economic growth, there was also a need to consult and listen to key committees set up to offer independent scientific advice on the matter under legislation.

Prime Minister was upbeat about the situation during the Songkran holidays and foreign tourism outcome

On Monday also, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan ocha struck an upbeat tone when he told reporters that people can be reasonably happy with the way matters are currently progressing.

He said the government was in the process of monitoring the situation carefully but, thus far, it had seen nothing to change its analysis of the situation before the holiday period.

He thought that matters would become easier to decipher in approximately a week from now.

At the same time, the PM urged everyone including the media posse and reporters to exercise caution in relation to their own health and to use antigen tests, where appropriate, at this time.

‘Today it has been reported that everything is still in accordance with the pre-estimation of the situation. It will take about a week for all people travelling to have their own checks. Might have to protect myself. Some of you may have to stay at home. I ask that ATK be used properly and appropriately,’ he said.

General Prayut expressed satisfaction at the growing number of foreign tourists already arriving in Thailand but insisted that the country must still be wary of the threat posed by the virus and a pandemic still raging throughout the world.

Tourism minister’s plan to axe ‘Test and Go’ regime

Thailand is widely reported to be working towards a target date of July 1st to declare the virus in the kingdom endemic and thereby lift all entry restrictions on travelling into the country.

In the meantime, the Minister of Tourism and Sports, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, has promised to bring forward proposals to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) when it is next due to meet on Friday next, April 22nd, to make a decisive move to axe the ‘Test and Go’ entry regime and the ‘Thailand Pass’ system and instead allow all vaccinated visitors access to the kingdom subject only to an antigen test on arrival.

Minister proposes that vaccinated tourists fly in without notice from May 1st to boost the economy

There have been growing indicators that further relaxation of these regulations could boost already rising numbers of foreign tourists. 

This potential boost to the economy is coming in a year that is seeing export growth expectations tamped down from an expected growth rate of 10% to 5% and with rising inflation and falling consumer confidence.

Top doctor and consistent critic of easier access to foreign tourists warns Thailand faces rising death rates and is ranked 6th in the world for cases

Such an approach, however, to the ongoing pandemic may be premature according to Dr Thira Woratanarat of Chulalongkorn University who has repeatedly, over the last two years, accused planners of underestimating the threat of the disease in Thailand.

Dr Thira has repeatedly argued against allowing more liberal access for foreign tourists to the kingdom since the crisis began in March 2020.

On Monday, he pointed out that Thailand currently has the 6th highest level of COVID-19 cases in the world and that the deaths announced on Monday accounted for 23.61% of all deaths from the virus in Asia.

He warned that while global deaths were dropping, Thailand still has a rising death rate from the disease.

He also criticised what he claimed was the exclusion of antigen testing from official figures and said that the kingdom’s rising death rate currently went against global trends suggesting that something was wrong with the country’s prevention policies.

He said that these policies need to be reviewed if the people involved in making such decisions value life itself.

Join the Thai News forum, follow Thai Examiner on Facebook here
Receive all our stories as they come out on Telegram here
Follow Thai Examiner here

Further reading:

Minister proposes that vaccinated tourists fly in without notice from May 1st to boost the economy

Fears growing that Covid may yet derail plans to reopen fully to foreign tourism from July 1st next

Minister says Thailand Pass could be gone by June 1st, but suggests the retention of a test on arrival

Travel sector calls for endemic status, scrapping of Thailand Pass and full normality on entry to the country

Thai tourism emphasises its neutrality in the Ukraine war, calls for a review of payment systems

Thailand moving to scrap all tourist restrictions this year once the Covid virus is declared endemic

Opposition targets Test and Go for spreading the virus as government insists on endemic status

Test and Go ready for take off again but this time with added baggage including a second PCR test

PM orders a re-evaluation of the balance between public health and economy as Omicron fears ease

Pandemic drawing to a close, senior public health official says growing Omicron strain is harmless

Top official describes the popular ‘Test and Go’ entry as a loophole exposing Thailand to Omicron

Tourism business owners think the unthinkable, the Omicron storm may bring with it good news

Minister suggests that ‘Test and Go’ now paused entry regime may be restarted in the New Year

Omicron nightmare for already troubled tourism sector: plan to suspend ‘Test and Go’ entry route

Omicron has arrived in Thailand but top officials believe they can manage an escalating situation

Thailand pushes ahead with foreign tourism drive, may defer switch to antigen testing over Omicron

Health officials asks for a review of the list of 63 countries allowed to enter without quarantine

Nightlife to reopen on a certified basis as officials try to balance public health and the economy

Thailand Pass is being upgraded but passenger stress stories continue with cancellation threats

Tourism reopening may lose momentum as government pivots back to public health priorities

Incoming passengers vent frustration at problems and bugs with the Thailand Pass system this week

Kingdom may see up to 1 million tourists this year but it will be an uphill battle to get back to 2019

Vaccinated tourists from 63 countries can leave SHA plus hotels after 1st night says top official in Phuket

Fears for travellers trying to access Thailand in the interim period as Thailand Pass launch nears GO

Russian and Indian travellers unhappy at entry rules for November 1st, call for simpler plans

Most tourists will be able to travel freely in Thailand once they pass their first test on arrival here

46 countries green-lighted as Thailand’s tourism business is set to take off from November 1st

Bright lights may be turned on again for foreign tourism as hated Certificate of Entry is to be axed

TAT boss: quarantine remains for 1 day to test all visitors, no going back to old tourism pub scenes

PM’s reopening order-only the beginning of the end of this cataclysmic crisis for Thai tourism

High-quality tourism dream may be making the COVID-19 crisis for the industry even worse than it should be

Tourism chief again plans to open up Thailand’s rock bottom tourism industry to cryptocurrencies

Dysfunction hits reopening of Thailand to tourism as Health Minister dismisses October 1st date

Bangkok reopening delayed as figures for fully vaccinated must nearly double by October 15th to go ahead

New normal tourism may see foreign and local tourists segregated at Pattaya tourist attractions

Only 13% will visit Thailand under the kingdom’s demanding entry process with 2021 economic growth at stake

October reopening of foreign tourism to Thailand could be another false dawn with cumbersome entry regime

Richest man in Thailand says COVID-19 is like a World War, the kingdom could end up a big loser in the end

Foreigners in Thailand have nearly ฿600 billion in the bank as inequality and poverty rise alarmingly

Rising prospect of GDP contraction for 2021 may see government breach the legal public debt limit

A dead mother beside her children and a taxi driver who slept, show us a nation riven by an extended crisis

Economic fears rising as Thailand faces a bigger crisis than 1997 with rising job losses and debt

Baht falling with confidence in Thailand waning as foreign tourism closure and virus drive funds out

Central bank to lower GDP growth forecast as its attention turns to private sector debt management

Thailand to reopen to ‘big fish’ tourists as a cryptocurrency friendly haven says promotion agency boss

Failure to pass the ฿500 billion borrowing decree could lead to the dissolution of parliament

Baht to strengthen later in the year even after July as foreign tourists will return says top bank economist

Industry leaders and central bank all warn that foreign tourism must return to avoid a collapse

Refloat of foreign tourism in the 2nd half of 2021 with vaccines pushed by minister and industry for the sector