Thailand mulls easing Covid test rules for overseas visitors to attract tourists

Published on Apr 07, 2022 08:04 PM IST

Visitors to Thailand currently need to pre-book a RT-PCR test along with a one-night hotel accommodation to secure a visa. Hotel operators say the rules are a major dampener for travellers to the country.

Thailand mulls easing Covid test rules for overseas visitors to attract tourists (REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa)
Thailand mulls easing Covid test rules for overseas visitors to attract tourists (REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa)
Bloomberg | | Posted by Zarafshan Shiraz

Thailand will consider scrapping a mandatory polymerase chain reaction test on arrival for foreign visitors as the Southeast Asian nation further relaxes its visa rules to attract tourists.    

The Health Ministry will propose replacing the RT-PCR tests with a rapid antigen test, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters on Thursday. The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, will consider the relaxation at a meeting on Friday, he said.

Visitors to Thailand currently need to pre-book a RT-PCR test along with a one-night hotel accommodation to secure a visa. Hotel operators say the rules are a major dampener for travellers to the country.

Under the proposed rules, visitors may undergo the rapid antigen tests at the airport or any other designated venues starting May 1, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said in a statement Thursday.

Thailand was among the first tourism-reliant nations to end quarantine requirements for inoculated visitors and this month waived a pre-travel Covid test mandate, but arrival numbers have failed to meet expectations. Thai Hotels Association and the Federation of Thai Industries want the government to end the so-called Test & Go visa program to stimulate the economy. 

The average daily foreign arrivals jumped 66% to 11,623 so far in April from a month earlier after the government withdrew a pre-travel Covid test requirement, Thanakorn said, adding ibound travel will pick up pace in the coming months to aid faster recovery of the tourism sector.

Prayuth’s government may further ease Covid restrictions if the annual Songkran holidays to mark the Thai New Year don’t trigger a spike in new cases, Anutin said. New daily infections may jump to 50,000-60,000 as people travel and hold family gatherings starting next week, the Health Ministry warned earlier this week.

Thailand reported 26,081 new Covid infections and 91 deaths on Thursday, official data showed. While the active cases totalled almost 250,000, hospital bed occupancy was only about 28%, the government said.  

Thailand has stepped up a campaign to provide booster shots to the elderly and other vulnerable groups with the majority of the deaths during the current omicron-fuelled wave reported among the unvaccinated groups. While the country has prepared a road-map to classify the pandemic as endemic, the progress toward it would be contingent on first quelling the outbreak, Prayuth has said.

 

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.
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