Vaccinated travellers from abroad may once again be eligible for the quarantine-free Test & Go program in Thailand, less than a month after it was suspended due to fears of the newly discovered Omicron Covid variant.
Anutin Charnvirakul, public health minister, said officials would propose lifting the suspension of the Test & Go program to the nation’s virus task force on Thursday.
Despite the high contagiousness of the Omicron coronavirus variant, the outbreak is still under control in Thailand thanks to the successful vaccination program and Covid’s containment measures, Mr Anutin said.
Entertainment venues like bars and pubs, which have been closed almost a year, will remain closed because there is a higher risk of spreading infections in these establishments, he explained.
On the expectation that foreign tourists will return, the baht has gained as much as 0.5%, suggesting that the country may be able to reverse its current-account deficit. The exchange rate for the currency is 33.034 to a US dollar, the highest level since Nov 23 of this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Thailand’s economy needs tourism
After Christmas and New Year celebrations, Thailand saw a jump in new cases. However, these new cases are far below the level seen during the Delta wave and are still far from overwhelming the country’s health system.
According to Mr Anutin, authorities want to ensure that they can allow people to conduct business on a day-to-day basis and earn a living.
During the past two years, the government has experimented with several plans to try to revive the travel sector. One-fifth of the economy used to be generated by the travel industry, and about 40 million foreign visitors generated approximately 2 trillion baht in 2019.
Before it was suspended, the Test & Go program, which allowed vaccinated travellers from more than 60 countries to bypass quarantine, helped attract about 350,000 visitors in just two months.
The Phuket Sandbox tourism programme was expanded last week to Krabi, Phang Nga, and Koh Samui in an effort to lure tourists.