Unvaccinated travellers still face 5 days quarantine, a prior negative test and an RT-PCR test on Day 4 or 5 but on Friday, the decision to scrap ‘Test and Go’ completely is making May 1st another D-Day for the recovery of Thailand’s massive foreign tourism industry which is already seeing passenger levels at Suvarnabhumi Airport at up to 25% of levels seen in 2019.
The ‘Test and Go’ regime for vaccinated arrivals to Thailand by air will be scrapped from May 1st leaving such visitors free to enter the kingdom without a test on arrival although, for now, approval must still be sought via the Thailand Pass application. The decision on Friday by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) is a significant easing of conditions of entry and will come as a relief to the kingdom’s foreign tourism industry which is in the process of recovery.
Thailand took another key step forward, on Friday, to return the country’s critical foreign tourism industry to normality when the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, decided to scrap the Test and Go regime for May 1st next.
The news came at approximately 11.50 am after the meeting held within the Santi Maitri Building at Government House.
General Prayut, the prime minister, revealed the good news for foreign tourists and a recovering foreign tourism sector which drives up to 25% of the kingdom’s economy both directly and indirectly.
Vaccinated air passenger arrivals to be no longer subject to testing and can get on with their holidays
The move will mean that, from May 1st, all incoming vaccinated travellers will no longer be subject to mandatory testing of any kind on landing in Thailand.
Instead, they will be advised to make use of antigen testing on a self-test basis during their stay here.
This will allow such visitors to fly in and get on with their holiday activities without restriction
Decision time on plans to ease further restrictions on foreign tourists with strong conflicting views at this time
It is not entirely clear yet, but it is understood that the Thailand Pass system will remain in operation where incoming passengers by air will still have to submit details of their vaccination status and evidence of insurance including coverage against COVID-19 to the amount of $10,000 to obtain approval to enter the country.
Prayut addressed reporters and hailed the move as a step forward for the vital foreign tourism industry
‘Tourism is recovering and antigen tests will be more convenient and faster for visitors,’ General Prayut explained to reporters at the end of the meeting. ‘Many countries are relaxing travel restrictions significantly and our country depends considerably on tourism to support our economy.’
The PM said this was Thailand’s chance to move forward.
The development comes after key business leaders strongly urged the government to bring the kingdom’s entry requirements into line with other worldwide destinations that have moved faster.
This includes the Chairman of Minor Group, a key retail conglomerate in Thailand which also operates an upmarket hotel chain.
Minor Group boss urged change in an open letter on Monday saying Thailand was behind other countries
In an open letter to the prime minister on Monday, April 18th, William Heinecke enclosed a chart with smiley faces for other countries and frowns for Thailand, showing a range of countries including the Maldives, Cambodia, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Mexico, France, Germany, Italy, India, United Arab Emirates and Norway which had simplified entry requirements.
Mr Heinecke acknowledged a rise in arrivals through Thailand’s main airport in recent weeks due to earlier decisions to ease entry requirements.
The business tycoon made the point, however, that current arrivals at 11,623 per day at Suvarnabhumi Airport compared unfavourably to the pre-pandemic level of 50,000 arrivals per day.
The business leader called for a return to pre-pandemic entry arrangements in his letter and promised to cooperate with the government’s efforts to relaunch the foreign tourism industry.
Two steps forward, one still to go
This has not yet happened even after Friday’s decision but it can be seen as two steps towards that goal.
Prior to Friday, Thailand still maintained RT-PCR testing and there was a proposal to replace it with antigen testing, this move is, therefore, two steps in one for these calling for full unrestricted access.
From May 1st, all tests on arrival will have been removed for vaccinated foreign tourists but prior approval is still required through the Thailand Pass application.
After Friday’s meeting, Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) spokesman, underlined that the new dispensation applied specifically to vaccinated travellers.
Spokesman points to simpler regime for unvaccinated arrivals by air on May 1st with 5 days quarantine
At the same time, he also pointed to an easing of restrictions for unvaccinated foreign tourists.
This group will be required to submit a negative test result within 72 hours of departure for Thailand and will be subject to quarantine on arrival for five days with an RT-PCR test on either Day 4 or 5.
He said there would no longer be a Test and Go scheme for vaccinated foreign tourists arriving in Thailand.
Dr Taweesilp explained the basis for the decision to scrap the Test and Go regime was the fact that incoming visitors are far less likely to be infected with the virus.
This was monitored over the past few weeks since the last meeting ordered a review which showed that only 0.46% of arrivals tested positive for the virus or just over 50 arrivals per day.
New regime for entry by land to Thailand
He also revealed that Friday’s initiative had also seen a decision to ease and simplify the country’s entry requirements for visitors arriving through land checkpoints.
All incoming foreign tourists by land who intend to stay longer than two days must be fully vaccinated and undergo an antigen test.
Speaking with reporters after the announcement, the Prime Minister said he had not heard any criticism of Thailand’s measures from outside the kingdom except praise for the government’s approach.
Virus still presents a challenge with rising death rates as PM urges parents to look out for children
He did acknowledge that COVID-19 still presents a challenge for the country and accepted that deaths from it are rising.
He particularly called upon parents to take care of young children and praised government agencies for providing ongoing medical care to the public.
When asked about the prospect of declaring the disease endemic in Thailand, which the Ministry of Public Health still plans to do by July 1st, the Prime Minister told reporters to take things one step at a time for now.
He said Thailand still had difficult problems with the death rate from the disease which is focused on the elderly population and those with underlying problems.
However, he confirmed that today’s decision to scrap the Test and Go regime will go ahead from May 1st as reporters pressed him.
National Security Council boss General Supoj praises Thailand Pass app and its positive contribution
On Thursday, before the meeting, the Chairman of the National Security Council, General Supoj Malaniyom, hinted changes would be introduced in respect of the Test and Go regime but pointed out that the Thailand Pass application had served the country well.
He said that without such entry controls, the country’s situation right now would have been unthinkable.
Earlier this week, Dr Chakkarat Pitayowonganon, the Director of the Epidemiology Division of the Department of Disease Control at the Ministry of Public Health, assured reporters that Thailand was still on target to declare the disease endemic on July 1st.
Thailand is still on track for a declaration of endemic status by July 1st according to one top official
It is thought, at that point, that all entry restrictions or controls may be removed by the government bringing entry procedures back to pre-pandemic conditions as demanded by the foreign tourism industry.
Despite this, Dr Chakkarat explained that he expects to see rising infection levels, deaths and hospitalisations and a rise in those seeking ventilator assistance over the next few weeks and into mid-May.
However, he was satisfied that the battle against the virus was still going in the right direction after the Songkran holiday period.
‘Personally, I am not much worried about the infections after the festival because the risk group is working people who develop fewer symptoms,’ the medical health official disclosed. ‘Many have already received one or two booster doses. But the problem is that they can transmit the disease to old people in their families. We may see more deaths among the elderly.’
He also said that his analysis was conditional on there being no further variants of the disease.
Problem and key focus now is to take care of vulnerable older people infected by general population
He said that the problem facing the kingdom was not one of a health risk to the mainstream population as the immunity level had risen to 50% and would rise to 70% as the vaccination campaign proceeded but the danger posed to older people from contracting the disease from family or friends.
This group has accounted for 90% of deaths in recent weeks.
This is why he said it was imperative that two million seniors are fully inoculated from the disease and administered booster shots making this age group up to 31 times more protected against death from Covid.
Ahead of Friday’s meeting, the Minister of Public Health and Deputy Prime Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, appeared to be more cautious about the prospect of a major alteration when he suggested even changing the test regime from RT-PCR to antigen testing would require a study.
Minister of Public Health Anutin still cautious
However, after Friday’s announcement, from May 1st, all tests on arrival for vaccinated incoming air passengers have been scrapped except for a self-testing advisory to holidaymakers to self-test using antigen kits.
Minster Anutin, however, did say that Thailand was preparing to treat the disease as endemic but emphasised the importance of being vaccinated.
‘Getting infected with Covid-19 is normal due to face-to-face contact in daily life,’ he said. ‘If we’re all vaccinated, the prospect will not be quite as worrisome.’