In response to the tourism industry’s call for lower costs, the government of Thailand will begin easing entry rules for foreigners next month. The move comes as more countries ease border controls to entice foreign travellers.
As of March 1, arrivals to Thailand who have received vaccinations will not need to undergo the mandatory polymerase chain reaction test on the fifth day of their arrival. Instead, they can do a self-antigen test, eliminating the need for a confirmed hotel reservation.
In addition, the Center for Virus Situation Administration (CCSA), a main virus task force led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, has lowered the minimum medical insurance requirement to no less than $20,000 from $50,000.
After nearly two years of tight border restrictions that decimated the country’s tourism industry, the government is making it easier for travellers to visit the country’s beaches, temples and national parks.
Dr. Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for Thailand’s Covid-19 task force, said that despite the surge in Omicron-led Covid cases, the low mortality rate means healthcare facilities can cope with the epidemic.
Omicron Still Plaguing Thailand
There were 21,232 Omicron Covid-19 cases in Thailand on Wednesday, a six-month high, but the death toll stood at 39, compared with more than 300 a day during the peak of the Delta wave in August.
According to Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, the majority of new cases are locally transmitted, with approximately one in a thousand foreign arrivals testing positive.
The mandatory fifth-day test can be administered using ATK Self Test Kits as the results are accurate and widely accepted, he said.
The public health minister told members of the CCSA that the number of operators answering calls to the 1330 hotline will be increased after the Prime Minister claimed he called the hotline and the operator sounded fatigued.
Currently, about 3,000 operators work the National Health Security Office’s Covid advice hotline.
Mr. Anutin also said all measures are in place to accommodate more Covid-19 patients in hospitals. Expanding hospitals is an option if necessary.
Despite the high number of infections, he said, health authorities are attempting to reduce the number of critically ill patients and deaths.
People should get vaccinated, adjust their behaviour, and avoid attending parties and other crowded places, he said.
Thai Currency Gains
Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports, Thailand’s currency rose 0.4% on expectations that visa rules will be relaxed, boosting the current-account surplus. This year, the currency has gained 3.3% against the US dollar, trading at 32.329.
Recently, the government has experimented with several plans to try to revive the travel sector, which contributed about one-fifth of the economy in the past, growing by more than $60 billion in 2019.
According to Dr. Taweesilp, Thailand has cleared about 302,000 people under the Test & Go program since it reopened on Feb 1.
The Thai capital Bangkok, eastern province Chonburi, and resort island Phuket were the most popular destinations, he said.