Thailand mulls resuming quarantine-free travel programme


The Test & Go programme, which allowed vaccinated travellers from more than 60 countries to skip quarantine, helped attract about 350,000 visitors in just two months before it was suspended. - AFP

BANGKOK (Bloomberg): Thailand may revive its quarantine-free visa programme for vaccinated travellers, less than a month after suspending the waiver, as fears of a new wave of Omicron-driven Covid cases recede.

Officials will propose lifting the suspension of the so-called Test & Go programme to the nation’s virus task force led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha on Thursday, Deputy Premier and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Monday (Jan 17).

While the Omicron variant is highly contagious, the outbreak is still under control in Thailand due to its successful vaccination programme and Covid containment measures still in force, Anutin said. Entertainment venues such as bars and pubs, which have been shut for almost a year, will remain closed because of the higher risks of spreading infections in those establishments, he said.

The baht rallied as much as 0.5% on expectations the return of foreign tourists may help the country reverse a current-account deficit. The currency traded at 33.034 to a US dollar, the strongest level since Nov 23, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

While Thailand saw a jump in new cases after the Christmas and New Year celebrations, they are far below their peak during the Delta wave and have yet to overwhelm the nation’s healthcare system.

nutin said authorities want to ensure that people are able to continue to conduct business and make a living.

Tourism-reliant Thailand has been experimenting with several plans over the past two years to try to revive the travel sector that used to contribute to about one-fifth of its economy, with 40 million foreign tourists generating more than US$60 billion in 2019.

The Test & Go programme, which allowed vaccinated travellers from more than 60 countries to skip quarantine, helped attract about 350,000 visitors in just two months before it was suspended. Authorities last week widened its Phuket Sandbox tourism programme to three more regions to attract holidaymakers.

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