In an attempt to revive tourism, Thailand will restart its ‘Test & Go’ scheme, allowing fully-vaccinated to enter the country from February 1.
Less than a month after suspending the waiver amid Omicron spread, Thailand, which attracted some of the highest tourist inflows in the subcontinent, has decided to resume its quarantine-free travel scheme from February 1.
Fully-vaccinated travellers will soon be allowed to enter the country under the ‘Test & Go’ program if they take RT-PCR test on the first and fifth days post arrival, said Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for Thailand’s COVID-19 taskforce. The visitors will be expected to isolate themselves at a hotel while waiting for their test results. They will also have to download a tracking app that will monitor if they are complying with the rules.
In addition to this, restaurants will also be allowed to serve alcohol until 11pm, hence easing the current 9pm restriction. Bars and nightclubs will remain closed. “In case there are more infections or the situation changes, there will be a re-assessment for inbound travellers and adjust toward the Sandbox scheme,” Visanuyothin said.
The ‘Test & Go’ scheme was earlier introduced in November 2021 as an alternative to two weeks’ hotel quarantine for travellers but was later suspended over fears about the new variant. “While the Omicron variant is highly contagious, the outbreak has been under control in Thailand due to its successful vaccination program and containment measures still in force.,” said Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul recently.
The taskforce also agreed to expand another similar quarantine waiver programme, the ‘Sandbox’ (where vaccinated tourists must agree to stay in one location for a week) to include popular eastern beach destinations Pattaya and Koh Chang. It is currently operating in Phuket and Koh Samui.
The decision was taken in an attempt to bounce back from what was the country’s worst economic performance since 1997 Asian financial crisis and to revive its ravaged tourism sector, keeping in mind that the death tolls and hospitalisations haven’t seen a spike. The tourism ministry estimates that about five million international travellers will visit Thailand in 2022 — down from nearly 40 million in the year before the pandemic.