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Thailand Relaxes Travel Restrictions as Omicron Concerns Subside

23 Jan 2022 By travelpulse

Thailand Relaxes Travel Restrictions as Omicron Concerns Subside

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Thailand is set to re-relax its entry requirements for foreign travelers starting next month after recent concerns about an Omicron-related surge proved to be short-lived and the outbreak less severe than anticipated.

After Thursday's meeting of the Southeast Asian nation's main COVID-19 task force-the 'Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration', chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha-the government said that fully vaccinated and recovered foreign travelers from all countries will be able to apply online for visas under its 'Test & Go' (a.k.a. 'Thailand Pass') program from February 1, 2022.

An earlier incarnation of the 'Test & Go' quarantine-free entry scheme was rolled out in November 2021 as Thailand's vaccination rates rose and COVID-19 cases declined. But, in December, the discovery and ensuing global spread of Omicron prompted Thai authorities to suspend the program in light of the fresh viral threat.

Thailand did see some COVID-19 spikes among international arrivals and several communities following the Christmas and New Year holidays, but the increase in infection was far less than what accompanied the Delta variant and hasn't overwhelmed the country's healthcare system. Officials said Thursday that the tightening of social restrictions and pausing its 'Test & Go' entry program had helped to maintain manageable conditions amid Omicron.

Now, to qualify for quarantine-free entry, vaccinated foreign visitors (or those with a certificate of recent COVID-19 recovery) will need to have a negative pre-travel PCR test taken within 72 hours of their departure and take additional PCR tests upon arrival in Thailand and on the fifth day of their stay. They must also provide proof of booking and prepayment for at least two nights' accommodation at a government-approved hotel and prearranged transfer from the airport to their hotel.

Highly economically reliant on its tourism industry-which contributed roughly one-fifth of the country's GDP pre-pandemic (over $60 billion in 2019), according to Bloomberg-Thailand fairly urgently needs to replenish its coffers, after having kept its borders largely closed since March 2020. At this point, the government needs to strike a balance between public health concerns and prioritizing the restart of revenue from the tourism sector.

"We can no longer close our borders as the economic costs will be too high," Thai Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said, according to AP News. "Reopening and managing the outbreak need to go hand in hand."

"The resumption of this program, which is expected to bring in more foreign tourists, can help strengthen the fragile economic recovery," said Nattaporn Triratanasirikul, an economist at the research unit of Kasikornbank PCL.

"The government needs to find [a] way for the economy to run on its own, so they can reduce fiscal support," he continued. "They can't afford to borrow such a huge amount of money like before."

All foreign visitors are required to download and install Thailand's 'MorChana' COVID-tracking and reporting app, keeping it on at all times for updates on any preventive measures in effect at their destination and using it to report their Day 5 test results.

For the latest insights on travel to Thailand, check out the guide below:

For more information, visit tourismthailand.org.

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