Omicron makes Thailand cancel quarantine-free inbound travel
BANGKOK -- The Thai government has announced that it will stop allowing quarantine-free visits to the country in light of the global spread of omicron, the highly infectious COVID-19 variant.
The sudden decision, which will come into effect on Wednesday and will last until at least Jan. 4, shuts the door to quarantine-free Thailand Pass applicants.
The country will continue to accept Thailand Pass applications for visits with quarantine, with registrations required at least one week prior to travel. The Phuket "sandbox" program -- under which visitors are not allowed to leave the southern island for at least seven days -- also remains in effect.
The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration will reevaluate pandemic conditions on Jan. 4 to decide whether to resume accepting applications for quarantine-free arrivals.
Thailand has so far confirmed 63 omicron cases, most of which were found among incoming travelers.
The kingdom reported its first local omicron transmission on Monday, and other variants remain dominant in the country. Thailand reported 2,476 coronavirus cases overall on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, 90,000 people who had already obtained the Travel Pass but not yet arrived will be allowed to enter the country without quarantine. They will be required to take two mandatory RT-PCR tests, the first upon arrival and the second seven days later. They will also be required to report their condition and whereabouts more frequently.
Thailand started welcoming vaccinated international visitors without quarantine in November after the government decided coexistence with the virus was inevitable since it cannot be completely eradicated.
The entry scheme was open to visitors from 63 countries and territories, but the list included places with some of the highest omicron infection levels, such as the U.K. and the U.S.
Quarantine-free visits are key to reviving Thailand's massive but stalled tourism industry, which in 2019 accounted for about 20% of gross domestic product.
The quarantine reimposition dims recovery hopes for Southeast Asia's second largest economy.
Due to the lack of tourists, the Thai economy shrank 6.1% in 2020 and is expected to grow by only 1.2% in 2021. The government's economic planning agency projects the country will achieve growth of 3.5% to 4.5% in 2022. But if the quarantine-free travel suspension drags on, Thailand could be in for another slow year.
As for domestic economic activity, the government said local New Year's celebrations and events can be held as long as necessary hygiene measures are taken.
Yuda, M. (2021, December 21). Omicron makes Thailand cancel quarantine-free inbound travel. Nikkei Asia. https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Coronavirus/Omicron-makes-Thailand-cancel-quarantine-free-inbound-travel