Thailand will ease entry restrictions for foreign tourists March 1 and imposed no new restrictions on those already here despite confirmed daily coronavirus cases rising above 20,000 Wednesday.
The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration today resolved to replace a second RT-PCR Covid-19 test with a self-administered antigen test. That also means foreign arrivals will not need to book a government-certified hotel on Day 5 of their stay.
Further lowering the financial bar for tourists, the CCSA decided to drop the amount of health insurance coverage needed from US$50,000 to $20,000.
The lighter restrictions will be reflected on the Thailand Pass website starting March 1. Anyone registering for a QR code before then will still need two tests, two hotel nights and $50,000 in insurance.
Total coronavirus cases reported Wednesday surpassed 38,000: 21,232 RT-PCR-test confirmed cases and 16,890 positive antigen tests. The Public Health Ministry also reported 39 deaths and a higher test-positivity rate of 20.9%.
Major tourist areas also saw surges. Chonburi Province reported 2,729 new cases – 1,369 confirmed – of which 298 confirmed infections were in Banglamung District which includes Pattaya.
Phuket reported 762 RT-PCR confirmed and 424 positive antigen tests, 114 of which were found among new foreign arrivals.
Despite the soaring numbers, the CCSA did not impose new restrictions or tighten existing ones. That did not stop local officials in the Northeast from doing so, however. Both Buri Ram and Khon Kaen again banned alcohol in restaurants, limited group gatherings to 50 people, including funerals.
PublicHealth Ministry spokesman Rungrueng Kijphati said Tuesday that the decision was made earlier this week not to tighten restrictions even as the ministry raised its Covid-19 alert level from 3 to 4.
Authorities noted, however, that the increasing numbers of infections among friends and family members are because of group activities like dining out and attending weddings.
Members of the public are urged to work from home, avoid mass gatherings and non-essential travel between provinces, and suspend overseas trips.
Overseas trips to Thailand, however, is what Thailand needs more of and the onerous and costly restrictions imposed on overseas tourists had infuriated tourism-industry executives, who pressured the CCSA heavily to lift them in the face of full, unrestricted reopenings next month by Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday that business operators and provincial chambers of commerce wanted the government to shorten the quarantine period and reduce the number of Covid-19 tests to welcome visitors.
The Thai Chamber of Commerce viewed that the cancellation of the second in-country test would promote visits and be beneficial to tourism and service sectors.
This month, 82,887 visitors entered the country through the “Test & Go” scheme and only 869, or 1.05%, were infected with Covid-19, he said.