Travel rules eased if caseload decreases

Travel rules eased if caseload decreases

International passengers check in for their flights at Suvarnabhumi airport. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul
International passengers check in for their flights at Suvarnabhumi airport. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

The Test and Go scheme and Thailand Pass registration are expected to be scrapped by June 1 if there is no surge in infections or fatalities during the Songkran festival in April, says the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said Thai tourism has to move forward after opening the Phuket sandbox in July 2021.

"Thailand started like a rabbit, running quickly last year as we reopened to visitors. We cannot let the country fall behind as many nations are opening borders and have fewer restrictions than us," Mr Phiphat said.

The government and tourism agencies have to work together to propose further loosening of travel restrictions, allowing more tourists into the country, with a target of 7 million arrivals this year, he said.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) recently dropped the 72-hour pre-travel RT-PCR test for international arrivals starting from April 1.

The next phase of reopening is expected to take place on May 1, with the RT-PCR test on arrival to be replaced with an antigen test kit (ATK) check conducted by a medical professional.

Mr Phiphat said the upcoming Songkran holidays will be a critical test for further easing of rules. The number of daily cases, including results from ATK tests in April, has to remain stable. An acceptable rate might be 50,000-60,000 cases, while the fatality rate should stay below 100, he said.

The ministry plans to submit an additional proposal in May to the CCSA after monitoring the situation in April, said Mr Phiphat.

The viral caseload in April could lead to the cancellation of the Test and Go scheme and Thailand Pass from June 1, he said.

Mr Phiphat said if the country fully reopens and returns to pre-pandemic norms, there would be no need to require RT-PCR test results from tourists. However, an ATK test should be administered the arrival day to maintain confidence locally and prevent uncertainty, he said.

Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Association of Thai Travel Agents on Thursday, Mr Phiphat said the ministry's proposal regarding an end to Covid testing from June 1 still requires approval from the Public Health Ministry based on the caseload.

The ministry previously forecast 10 million arrivals this year, but with the Omicron surge and the Ukraine-Russian conflict, the tally might only reach 7 million, he said.

Tourism revenue could reach 30% of levels recorded in 2019 this year, before improving to 50% next year and fully recovering by 2024, said Mr Phiphat.

He said the country needs to improve its ranking in the safety index. Thailand ranked poorly at 111 out of 140 countries in the 2019 Tourism Competitiveness Index, said Mr Phiphat.

Thailand aims to rise to 100 in the next index, he said.

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