Plastic chairs await international arrivals at Suvarnabhumi International Airport where passengers wait to be tested for Covid-19 before being shipped off to quarantine. (Photo: Bangkok Herald)

Even after admitting that Thailand can’t compete with countries that have fully reopened, the country’s timid leaders still won’t commit to dropping pointless coronavirus restrictions.

The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Friday agreed only that Thailand needs to relax its burdensome and expensive tourist-entry rules, but wouldn’t commit to a hard date. The CCSA said May 1 was a “tentative” date toward dropping mandatory RT-PCR coronavirus tests on arrival and one night’s quarantine, but said that date was subject to change.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his health officials remain petrified of Songkran and a surge in cases and deaths that may come from it, even though other Southeast Asian countries that also have their own versions of Songkran – Khmer New Year in Cambodia, for example – already reopened without worry.

Whether a post-Songkran surge happens or not, it has nothing to do with tourists. Fewer than 1% of foreign arrivals are testing positive for Covid-19 either on their first or fifth days in the country. Fully throwing open Thailand’s doors won’t make an iota of difference in overall coronavirus figures.

But former army generals with no experience in running a government, let alone a pandemic, continue to blame tourists, alcohol and everything except their own ineptitude for the disease and economic crises that continue to ravage Thailand.

Even if the PCR tests are dropped May 1, there seems to be full intent of retaining the buggy Thailand Pass system and mandatory health insurance. Those may not disappear until July when the government hopes to declare Covid-19 an endemic disease.

But the coronavirus is not going away, as the emergence of new subvariants of the omicron strain shows. If Prayut & Co. are waiting for the right time to say the danger is over, then Thailand will be stuck in this endless loop of idiocy forever. First it was the year-end holidays. Then it was Chinese New Year, then Songkran. Come July, it’s almost certain the “endemic” decision will be delayed.

There will always be some event that will stall the decision to return to normalcy.

Meanwhile, the country’s tourism, hospitality and entertainment industries continue to suffer, along with those who make their livings from them. Even the CCSA spokesman admitted Thailand now can’t compete with reopened neighbors.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand hoped to attract 10 million visitors this year. The country is on pace for 4 million.

It’s time – actually far past time – to drop Thailand Pass and all the other stupid restrictions and get back to business as usual.