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Tourism Ministry Wants 2nd RT-PCR Test Dropped; Industry Demands End to All Restrictions

Thailand RT-PCR Test Coronavirus Covid-19 Testing

The Tourism and Sports Ministry will propose that international tourists only submit to one, not two, RT-PCR coronavirus tests starting next month after backlash from hotels and airlines.

Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn said Friday that he and the Tourism Authority of Thailand will ask the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration to relax strict and expensive entry requirements for tourists to boost the industry.

Instead of the slow, costly and invasive RT-PCR test, an antigen test kit will be provided to tourists to test themselves after a week in the country.

The RT-PCR test on arrival and ATK for Day 7 was the standard adopted by the CCSA when the “Test & Go” entry scheme was introduced in December. Two invasive tests became required in December with the emergence of the omicron coronavirus variant.

While omicron continues to power a massive new wave of cases – Thailand on Saturday confirmed 18,885 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 168 of them, or 0.9%, from foreign arrivals – deaths remain relatively low, with only 29 reported today.

Other Southeast Asian countries experiencing the same wave already are moving aggressively to end restrictions on incoming tourists. Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines next month will lift nearly all restrictions, including quarantines in some cases.

That is putting competitive pressure on Thailand to make it easier for tourists to visit.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes met this week with Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul to suggest the second RT-PCR test be dropped. He claimed that many tourists, especially those from Malaysia and Singapore, are interested in coming to Thailand, but won’t due to the onerous procedures involved.

Anutin admitted the requirements – two RT-PCR tests, two nights of a quarantine hotel and US$50,000 in health insurance –inconvenience foreign travelers, but was opposed to doing away with all restrictions, claiming they’re needed to protect the safety of the public.

Nonetheless, the blowhard minister said he would ask the Department of Disease Control – whose opinions he has consistently overruled – to consider the idea.

Hotel operators want more than just the second test halted. In an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Thai Hotels Association, along with tourism operators in the South and East, said the government should declare Covid-19 an endemic disease and lift all restrictions, including ending the buggy Thailand Pass system and post-arrival coronavirus testing.