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.

test-and-go-scrapped- big-step-for-incoming-tourism
The Prime Minister General Prayut Chan ocha (right) outside Government House in Bangkok on Friday as he announced the decision of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to scrap the Test and Go entry regime for vaccinated passengers and replace it with an advisory for self-antigen testing after arrival in Thailand. It appears that the Thailand Pass app will remain in operation although its days may be numbered with the kingdom still on track for a declaration of endemic status. The Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul (left), before the meeting also agreed that the time is coming for Thailand to live with the virus in everyday dealings but insisted on the importance of vaccination.

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.

Fourth phase of Thailand’s plan or endemic targeted for July 1st

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.’

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:

Decision time on plans to ease further restrictions on foreign tourists with strong conflicting views at this time

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