The National Communicable Disease Committee (NCDC) has approved a plan to replace RT-PCR tests with antigen testing for visitors travelling from 63 eligible countries and territories who are allowed to enter Thailand without the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Speaking after a meeting of the NCDC, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the replacement is in line with the second phase of the reopening starting from Dec 1.
The change will apply to visitors under the "test and go" scheme, with vaccination certificates, and RT-PCR certificates issued 72 hours prior to their travel. Upon arrival, they will undergo antigen testing from time to time, he said.
Under the "test and go" scheme, visitors from the 63 countries are exempted from quarantine and require just a single night at a hotel certified by the Safety and Health Administration Plus standard while waiting for their RT-PCR test result.
Mr Anutin said the meeting also approved a proposal to exempt a 50-baht fee for a certificate of Covid-19 vaccination issued via the e-vaccine passport system for visitors who travel from Dec 1 to 31.
Mr Anutin said the Department of Medical Services also signed an agreement to buy 50,000 courses, equal to 2 million pills, of molnupiravir, the world's first oral medication for the treatment of Covid-19. Molnupiravir, developed by US drug companies Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, is the first antiviral medication for Covid which can be taken as a pill rather than injected or given intravenously.
The Department of Disease Control (DDC) yesterday also signed an agreement to buy another 30 million doses of Pfizer vaccines which will be administered as booster shots next year, Mr Anutin said, adding that if a second-generation of Pfizer vaccine is developed for children aged below 12, Thailand can also buy them under the agreement.
DDC director-general Opas Karnkawinpong said the second phase of the reopening will be presented for approval by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) today.
Under the plan, visitors will be allowed to enter by boat and on land, in addition to air travel which is the only entry mode currently, Dr Opas said.
The move comes after information shows that the rate of infections from foreign visitors, including travellers under the test and go scheme, was low at only 0.08%, Dr Opas said.
However, entry by land will be limited to safe border passes, with strict health screening to be put in place, Dr Opas said.
Asked if the government will consider reducing the number of eligible countries from 63 in the wake of new surges of infections in Europe, Dr Opas said the CCSA instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to consider the matter.
Meanwhile, there were 6,335 new Covid-19 cases and 37 more fatalities registered during the previous 24 hours, the Public Health Ministry reported yesterday.
There were 6,305 cases in the general population and 30 among prison inmates. The number of new cases rose from 5,857 announced on Wednesday, when the country recorded 55 more deaths.
On Wednesday, 7,218 Covid-19 patients were discharged from hospitals after recovering from the virus.
The 6,335 new cases included 6,298 local infections and seven imported cases. Of the local infections, 6,092 were confirmed at hospitals and 206 via mass testing.
Bangkok had 672 new cases, followed by 455 in Songkhla, 429 in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 263 in Surat Thani, 258 in Chiang Mai, 206 in Samut Prakan, 204 in Chon Buri, 178 in Pattani, 171 in Yala and 154 in Prachuap Khiri Khan. Bangkok recorded five new deaths.