Reopening gathers steam
PM urges 'collective responsibility'
Thailand's reopening to foreign travellers took another big step forward on Friday as pre-travel RT-PCR tests and certificate requirements ended for visitors arriving under the Test & Go, Sandbox and quarantine programmes, with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha calling on businesses and the public to ensure there were no hiccups.
"From now on, if anything happens, we must accept collective responsibility. But we have made full preparations. I listened to the pros and cons and have eased restrictions wherever possible.
"But if anything [untoward] comes to pass, we will have to go back to square one. This is the difficult part of running the country," Gen Prayut said.
From Friday, people who enter the country through one of the programmes will be given an RT-PCR test on arrival.
They also will be required to perform an antigen self-test on Day 5 after arrival and provide the results to their hotel.
Sandbox visitors must remain in their designated area for five days.
Visitors in the quarantine scheme, including people caught entering the country unlawfully, will be kept in isolation for five days and have an RT-PCR test on Day 4 or 5 after arrival.
Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana on Friday said the prime minister instructed related agencies to prepare for an influx of foreign tourists under the less severe revised system.
The new rules are intended to help resuscitate the economy, in particular the tourism sector, which was among the worst hit, he said. However, everyone must still comply with health precautions prescribed by the Public Health Ministry, the spokesman said.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said that the ministry will this month ask the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to consider further easing entry rules, such as replacing on-arrival RT-PCR tests with simpler and quicker antigen alternatives.
Test results would be certified, and visitors would be allowed freedom of movement instantly upon a negative result, Mr Phiphat said.
However, it is up to the Public Health Ministry to make a decision on the matter, but a green light from the CCSA could see the rule come into effect on May 1, he said.
Before that, targets must be met during the festival period, Mr Phiphat warned, stating that daily infections must remain below 60,000 and fatalities under 100.
He said the ministry will also propose that Thailand Pass registration be scrapped from June 1, to mark a return to "business as usual" for the stricken sector.
"The Tourism and Sports Ministry will ask the government to ease travel rules to reopen the country," the minister said.
The ministry estimated at least seven million foreign tourists will visit Thailand this year, generating about 30% of the 3 trillion baht raked in by the tourism revenue in 2019, he said.
Despite renewed optimism, Thailand logged an all-time high of 28,379 new cases of Covid-19 and 92 deaths during the previous 24 hours, the Public Health Ministry reported on Friday.
The figures also did not include 22,331 positive antigen test results over the same period which would have put the total at 50,710.
Bangkok had the most new cases with 3,350, followed by 1,352 in Chon Buri, 1,259 in Nakhon Si Thammarat, 933 in Samut Prakan, 854 in Samut Sakhon, 744 in Songkhla, 726 in Khon Kaen, 716 in Nonthaburi, 701 in Ratchaburi and 698 in Nakhon Pathom.