The government is set to allow tourists to enter Thailand without the need to show proof of a negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours of travel as required by the Test & Go scheme.
Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for the Public Health Ministry, said the ministry will propose the easing of certain pre-travel requirements to a meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Friday.
"Under the proposed entry rules, travellers under the Test & Go scheme would no longer be required to show negative RT-PCR test results up to 72 hours before departure to the kingdom," he said on Wednesday.
They will only need an RT-PCR test upon arrival and an antigen self-test on Day 5, while health insurance coverage for foreign visitors will be reduced from at least US$50,000 to $10,000, Dr Kiattiphum said.
He will also present to the CCSA a plan detailing steps to downgrade the Covid-19 pandemic to the status of an endemic.
The downgrade to an endemic disease will lead to changes in the way the disease is controlled, and how people will be looked after, while social and legal measures issued during the pandemic will be revised to suit the current circumstances, Dr Kiattiphum said.
In particular, the government will replace the emergency decree imposed to contain the spread of the disease with the Communicable Disease Act to prepare for a post-pandemic society, he said. However, the government may also have to wait for an announcement on downgrading Covid-19 to an endemic disease from the World Health Organisation, he said.
Dr Kiattiphum said the National Communicable Disease Committee has approved a Covid-19 management plan which is divided into four phases, in line with the full reopening of the country and downgrading Covid-19 to an endemic disease. The plan will also be discussed at the CCSA meeting tomorrow, he said. The move comes after neighbouring countries have begun easing their entry rules in a bid to attract foreign tourists.
He said the downgrade of Covid-19 to an endemic disease and the easing of restrictions must proceed step-by-step on condition there are no new mutations of the virus posing a serious threat. Under the plan for the virus downgrade to an endemic disease, the first phase called "combatting" between March 12 and early April aims to flatten the infection curve.
During this phase, tourists under the Test & Go scheme are still required to take an RT-PCR test upon arrival and an antigen test on Day 5. Unvaccinated tourists will be quarantined for 10 days. These requirements will remain in force if infections are detected in more than 3% of foreign arrivals.
The second phase, known as "plateau", between April-May, is to stabilise the level of infections. Tourists who are fully vaccinated can enter the country without the need to show negative RT-PCR test results but still must take an RT-PCR upon arrival and an antigen test on Day 5. Unvaccinated tourists are subject to five days of quarantine.
These rules will be enforced with infections detected in 1-3% of tourists.
The third phase, called "declining", between late May and June 30, aims to reduce the daily number of new infections to 1,000-2,000.
Tourists who are fully vaccinated can enter the country without any requirements. Unvaccinated tourists need to take an antigen test upon arrival. The Test & Go scheme will be scrapped but Thailand Pass remains. These rules will be enforced should infections be detected in less than 1% of tourist arrivals.
The fourth phase, called "post-pandemic," from July 1, will see the Covid-19 pandemic downgraded to endemic status. Tourists can enter the country regardless of whether they are vaccinated.
Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, backed the virus downgrade and called on the government to ease further restrictions to resuscitate the economy. "Thailand should speed up the virus downgrade to an endemic disease and relax restrictions. The private sector is ready to discuss the matter with the government to support efforts to reopen the country more quickly," he said.