Thailand on Friday made entering the country a little cheaper and easier as the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration continued ease coronavirus restrictions.
The agency lifted the last curfews, eliminated all “dark red” coronavirus maximum and strict control zones, announced the reopening of a key land border and made changes to the “Test & Go” and “sandbox” tourist schemes.
However, the CCSA did not, as many hoped, agree to reopen nightlife venues earlier than Jan. 16.
Test & Go is now a little less of a lie.
For the first month, the government basically lied to incoming travelers, telling them all they needed was a test and a ticket. Some people even fell for it, and were denied boarding. Others gave up in frustration.
As of Dec. 16, Thailand’s “no quarantine” entry finally will be just that. There no longer will be a need to book one night quarantine at a pricey, government-certified hotel. But, as usual, the caveats the CCSA added to the rule change made it as clear as mud that anything would actually change.
Under Test & Go, those entering Thailand needed proof of full Covid-19 vaccination, US$50,000 in insurance, a confirmed one-night booking at an AQ/SHA+ hotel and a pre-flight negative RT-PCR coronavirus test result.
The vaccination certificate, insurance and PCR test will still be required after Dec. 16, but instead of taking a pointless second PCR test upon arrival, tourists can take a cheap, fast, non-invasive antigen test instead, with results available in as little as 15 minutes.
But Foreign Affairs Ministry English-language spokesman Nopakun Natapanu said the test must be taken at a hotel and that “approved transportation” must be booked from the airport.
“You will not need to book the actual hotel room, because of course the (antigen) test gives out a faster result.”
Exactly how that will work is uncertain. What hotels will accept Thais and expats only for tests without them renting a room? And will proof of “approved transportation” now be required in the buggy Thailand Pass online application? When will that change be implemented? And will more bugs come with the change?
Foreign Affairs spokesman Sangrat tweeted today that, to accommodate the changes, Thailand Pass will not accept any applications for travel to Thailand after Dec. 16 until Dec. 1.
For those not on Thailand’s list of 63 approved countries for the Test & Go scheme, “sandbox” stays in the province where they arrived now will be shorter, just five days instead of seven.
The CCSA also agreed to reopen the Khon Kaen border with Laos, yet another move to reopen border crossings.
Curfews & Rezoning
More confusion reigns over the list of color-coded provinces rezoned by the CCSA. The “dark red” designation has retired (for now) and the last the nighttime curfews in the country.
Kanchanaburi, Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani were rezoned as “blue” pilot tourism areas where tourists can go directly upon arrival. However, adding to confusion, specified districts in other provinces also were marked “blue”, although the CCSA didn’t release a list of what districts those were.
Of particular note is Chonburi, which continues to report only handfuls of new coronavirus cases a day. Banglamung District, which includes Pattaya, reported 48 new cases on Friday with the province as a whole reporting 202. Chonburi was upgraded to an “orange” zone Friday yet, but will Banglamung and Sattahip – the province’s intended blue zones – be allowed to sell alcohol in restaurants? The decision likely will be left to the provincial governor.