Easing of entry rule in focus

Easing of entry rule in focus

CCSA mulls cutting PCR test on arrival

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) will today discuss a proposal to further ease the country's Covid-19 restrictions.

Suggested measures include replacing RT-PCR testing with an antigen test kit (ATK) for fully vaccinated arrivals and shortening the mandatory quarantine period for those who are unvaccinated.

The CCSA will debate a proposal to adjust the testing requirements to improve convenience for international visitors and Thai nationals returning from overseas, said Gen Supoj Malaniyom, chief of the CCSA's operations centre.

The requirement will either be adjusted to make it as convenient as possible for all arrivals or it could even be cancelled, he said.

For unvaccinated travellers who have proof they have completed sufficient Covid-19 quarantine measures before arriving in Thailand, they may be permitted to shorten their quarantine requirements when in Thailand, he said.

The Thailand Pass registration system for international visitors will still be needed for the time being for safety reasons but it will be adjusted and used only sparingly, he said.

Earlier this week, William E Heinecke, founder and chairman of Minor International, urged Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in a letter dated April 18 to consider terminating the Thailand Pass system and Test & Go programme.

The requirement under Thailand Pass for international visitors to pre-book an RT-PCR test, make a pre-paid one-night hotel reservation, pay for health insurance, and all other pre-travel requirements should now be removed for the sake of flexibility, Mr Heinecke wrote in the letter.

Many other countries, including those with a tourism-dependent economy, have already eliminated such requirements, he said.

"It is time for Thailand to follow suit, remove all travel obstacles and resume pre-pandemic entry rules," he wrote.

If approved by the CCSA as expected, these changes will take effect from May 1 and apply to everyone who arrives in Thailand by air or enters the country through a border checkpoint, said Gen Supoj.

The Interior Ministry, which is responsible for implementing the border reopening, will join the CCSA in discussing what Covid-19 control measures will still be required upon allowing visitors to pass a border checkpoint into Thailand, he said.

The CCSA will also consider reassigning a new colour -- marking the severity of the Covid-19 situation -- to several provinces that have been able to demonstrably prove marked improvements in terms of how they are controlling Covid-19 outbreaks in their locales.

This would allow them to further ease Covid-19 restrictions, he said.

Anan Nakniyom, deputy governor of Rayong, said the province has asked to be redesignated to light blue from orange so that more Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted including a ban on alcohol being served at restaurants.

As for preparations for schools to reopen in May, the CCSA will discuss measures proposed for those that aim to fully resume their onsite learning to mitigate the risk of Covid-19 in the coming school term, said Gen Supoj.

Gen Prayut has also expressed the need for all education outlets to have in place their Covid-19 safety plan ahead of the school term that begins in May, said government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.

Despite working towards declaring Covid-19 an endemic disease, the Ministry of Public Health is stockpiling medications and other medical supplies required for treating Covid-19 patients, said Gen Supoj.

Regardless of the measures being sought that are designed to achieve a return to normality as soon as possible, everyone should bear in mind that they will still have to live with Covid-19 for at least another year, he said.

"We intend to further relax all existing Covid-19 restrictions to have the country move forward and give people a better chance to earn more money and be able to resume their daily life activities," said Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charvirakul.

A source, meanwhile, said the ministry has proposed bringing forward the plan to fully reopen the country.

This was initially scheduled to begin on July 1.

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