Sathit Pitutecha, deputy public health minister, said on Monday that the government is considering suspending the decision to replace RT-PCR tests with antigen rapid tests for air travellers following the emergence of the Covid-19 Omicron variant.
In his speech at Government House, Mr Sathit said the decision to move to antigen rapid testing was made to facilitate the entry of visitors at designated airports, to boost the tourism industry.
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration approved a Public Health Ministry proposal on Friday that would allow vaccinated travellers from 63 countries and one territory to undergo antigen rapid testing instead of RT-PCR testing. The rapid testing was to start on December 16.
Travellers who are subject to RT-PCR testing have to stay in a hotel for an overnight quarantine. A rapid antigens test only take an hour and visitors may proceed to their destinations if the results are negative.
According to the deputy minister, RT-PCR will prove more effective than rapid antigen testing in keeping the Omicron variant out of Thailand.
According to Apisamai Srirangson, a spokeswoman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, the decision made by the CCSA on Friday to replace RT-PCR tests with antigen tests might change since the situation of Covid-19 has changed.
Travellers from eight countries in southern Africa will be excluded from Thailand on Dec 1 in an effort to keep the country free of the variant.
The deputy prime minister and energy minister said that Omicron would not affect Thailand’s reopening. 63 countries and territories are listed as being allowed entry without the 14-day quarantine requirement in Thailand, but African countries are not on the list.
The government will evaluate the situation in two or three weeks, including whether to allow travellers from more countries to enter without quarantine.