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CCSA to Weigh Reimposing Mandatory Quarantine for Foreign Arrivals, Crushing Tourism Industry

Thailand Quarantine Covid-19 Coroanvirus Sandbo

The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration this will will consider a proposal to reimpose mandatory quarantine for all arrivals due to the coronavirus omicron variant.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul – who does not have a vote on the CCSA – said on a television news program Monday morning that Thailand now has seen 63 cases of the omicron variant – 62 of which were found in quarantine. The other case is the wife of an airline pilot. Another 20 cases are pending investigation, Anutin added.

Her coronavirus test results are being sequenced and, if found to be the omicron variant, the case would be the first of local transmission of the highly contagious variant in the kingdom.

As a result, Anutin said, the CCSA should cancel the “Test & Go” scheme it began Nov. 1 that allows tourists to spend only a single night in quarantine and reinstate full “sandbox” or alternative quarantine measures. The ministry confirmed at a mid-day news conference it was “re-evaluating” current entry rules with an eye toward reintroducing full quarantine.

Under a sandbox scheme, tourists and returning Thais and expats would be confined to one city or district for a week and be forced to undergo at least two invasive and costly RT-PCR tests. Under an AQ scheme, arrivals would be confined to their hotels for 14 days.

Currently, under Test & Go, people must take a PCR test upon arrival and wait in their hotel until the test results come back. The system has worked as designed, so far, with all omicron-infected arrivals – which include a good number of Thais who visited Africa – found upon arrival.

Airline crew are not subject to the Test & Go rules, which is how the pilot managed to infect his wife.

Anutin said he will make his proposal to the CCSA, which will consider it this week.

If approved, it will deal a crushing blow to Thailand’s tourism industry, which is only now coming back to life. Experience has shown that tourists are unwilling to go to places where mandatory quarantine is required.

It also is a first step toward reclosing the borders to tourists entirely. Should omicron catch fire in Thailand and spread as it has in the United Kingdom, United States, South Africa, and Denmark, Thailand’s overcautious former generals might simply choose to shut everything down again until omicron subsides.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he didn’t foresee imposing another national lockdown. But that could change should cases new daily omicron cases reach 50,000-100,000 a day.