Speedier testing for arrivals likely
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has yet to decide if antigen test kits (ATKs) will replace the RT-PCR test for fully vaccinated international travellers to allow them to travel straight to their destinations.
The use of ATKs to screen visitors from 63 countries is being proposed to shorten queues as higher numbers arrivals are expected ahead of the next phase of reopening next month.
Currently, fully vaccinated travellers from the nations being considered are required to have an RT-PCR test upon arrival and stay in a hotel overnight for the results, which generally take six to eight hours to process.
Rapid screening was said to be among issues related to the forthcoming quarantine-free tourism scheme, or "Test & Go", brought to the attention of the CCSA meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday.
CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin said the issue is being considered by authorities as he went on to report the outcome of the reopening after almost two weeks.
He said the number of in-bound tourists infected with the virus was low, at 0.35%. Of 34,978 visitors, only 41 were infected with the virus. The top three arrivals were from the US with over 4,200, Germany (3,890) and the UK (2,011).
According to the CCSA's Facebook, since the Nov 1 opening, a total of 147,503 people have registered to enter the country, with 63% approved, 14% rejected and 23% still under consideration.
Travel applications have been rejected for a number of reasons including failing to meet hotel booking and health insurance requirements.
During the first week, Thailand Pass which replaced the certificate of entry (COE) system also experienced hiccups resulting in QR codes generated for visitors being unreadable by machines. The document examination process had to be done manually.
During the second phase, beginning on Dec 1, rapid screening has been proposed to replace the RT-PCR test for visitors at their hotels. In the third phase, slated for Jan 1 if all goes well, a shorter quarantine period has been proposed for non-vaccinated travellers.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said while he has no objection to the proposed use of ATKs to replace the RT-PCR test, it needs to wait pending discussions.
He said the government is trying its best to provide convenience to visitors but it must not be at the expense of public safety.
Meanwhile, Gen Prayut ordered the setting up of a tourism panel to address issues faced by international visitors following the introduction of the new Thailand Pass system, according to government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.
He said the task force would work to streamline the travel and health requirements for both Thai and foreign travellers as the country prepares to add more countries to the quarantine-free list.