End nigh for entry hurdles

End nigh for entry hurdles

Govt mulls axeing final requirements

Air arrivals undergo entry procedures at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province early this month. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Air arrivals undergo entry procedures at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province early this month. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

The government will consider whether to scrap antigen testing and Thailand Pass registration requirements for foreign visitors after the Test & Go entry scheme and RT-PCR tests upon arrival are cancelled next month.

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said entry rules for foreign arrivals have been eased gradually.

From May 1, fully vaccinated travellers will only need to take self-antigen tests during their stay. The 72-hour pre-travel RT-PCR test for international arrivals was also dropped from April 1.

The only remaining requirements are antigen testing and Thailand Pass registration, Mr Anutin said.

A few weeks after May 1, the ministry may ask the Centre for Covid-19 Administration Situation (CCSA) to consider removing these if infection rates among arrivals are low, Mr Anutin said.

"We have to move gradually because some people have supported the country's full reopening but some don't want the government to rush things. We have to strike a balance based on the information available," Mr Anutin said.

He said daily Covid-19 caseloads have stabilised and if no new mutations of the virus emerge, the numbers of infections and fatalities are expected to go down.

Currently, the number of patients on ventilators and the use of anti-Covid medications has also declined, which is in line with the government's efforts to ease restrictions, he said.

"The Songkran festival ended over 10 days ago, and daily infections have not jumped. I have appreciate the cooperation from all involved," he said.

Previously, there had been concern that the inter-provincial movement of people travelling and returning to their home provinces during the festival could have triggered a spike in daily caseloads unless strict precautions had been taken.

Commenting on some provinces seeking to downgrade the pandemic to endemic status, Mr Anutin said those provinces must comply with the same standards and requirements.

"If one province declares Covid-19 endemic, but another neighbouring province does not, things will be in disarray. Therefore, they must follow the same standards," he said.

"The Department of Disease Control (DDC) will raise the matter for discussion at the CCSA," Mr Anutin said.

Dr Suthep Petchmak, inspector-general of the Public Health Ministry, previously said about 15 provinces are aiming to be among the first to declare Covid-19 an endemic disease but they can't do so until they are approved by the Ministry of Public Health's Emergency Operations Centre.

According to the National Communicable Disease Committee, endemic status can be given to provinces with less than 10,000 new cases per day, and where the fatality rate does not exceed 0.1%.

Dr Suthep said if no new coronavirus variants emerge, he is confident Covid-19 will be declared an endemic disease by July 1.

DDC director-general Opas Karnkawinpong said some provinces are ready for the endemic status, though the nationwide situation must also be taken into consideration.

Those provinces have until July 1 to get themselves ready for the new disease status and each provincial communicable disease committee will consider easing restrictions in line with the criteria set by the CCSA and the ministry.

"The provincial communicable disease committees can impose tougher measures, but not less than those of the CCSA," Dr Opas said.

However, Jakkarat Pittayawong-anont, director of the DDC's epidemiology division, said on Wednesday that not a single province has met the criteria for the endemic status yet.

Among the criteria is that daily case numbers must stabilise in a province and more than 60% of a provincial population must receive booster shots of coronavirus vaccine.

Another stipulation is that more than 80% of people aged 60 and older in a province must receive their first vaccine shots and more than 60% of the elderly people must receive booster shots.

Thailand logged 14,887 new Covid-19 cases and 125 more fatalities during the previous 24 hours, the CCSA announced on Wednesday.

Bangkok continued to lead with the most daily cases at 3,292, followed by 687 in Khon Kaen, and 610 in Si Sa Ket.

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