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Thailand risks losing foreign tourists

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Fears are growing in Thailand that the coronavirus could derail plans to fully open to foreign tourism from July 1 next year

The Thai government is abandoning its plan to fully open to foreign tourism announced earlier this year, with all restrictions lifted by July 1 and coronavirus endemic status declared, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ochi’s statement was reported by local media.

This is because the economic imperative to develop the foreign tourism industry has never been stronger or more timely in Thailand due to rising prices and declining global trade, as well as the potential prospect of a depreciating baht.

Yesterday, April 8, the decision to replace the OT-PCR test on arrival with an antigen test starting May 1 was postponed at a meeting of the key emergency coordination body with Covid-19 when the prime minister requested data in connection with infections after the Songkran holiday period in mid-April.

Prayut Chan-Ocha chaired a meeting of the coronavirus situation group, which deferred action on a proposal to replace OT-PCR testing upon arrival in Thailand with an antigen test until after Songkran. This followed grim comments from the prime minister earlier this week in which he warned that the war on Covid-19 in Thailand was far from won. He pointed out that the situation could be reversed if everyone involved did not act responsibly, and also referred to a new variant of the Omicron strain rapidly spreading in the kingdom.

Dr. Thavisilp Visanuyotin of the coordination center summarized the meeting by stressing that the government is moving toward easing restrictions, but must act cautiously because of the danger posed by the Songkran holiday period, which begins next April 13.

Dr. Tavisilp explained that Prime Minister Prayut Chan Ocha intends to study the level of coronavirus infection in Thailand after the New Year festival.

“The prime minister wants to see numbers after Songkran,” he said, and also indicated that the prime minister would review data on infection rates among incoming travelers.

This is due to an increase in foreign tourists this month, whose numbers reportedly rose 66 percent this week as the requirement to undergo a PCR test before departing for Thailand and having a certificate was lifted, as planned, from April 1. This was the second phase of a four-phase plan outlined earlier this year by the Department of Health, to be followed by the elimination of all tests for vaccinated travelers beginning May 1.

Now, however, it is clear that authorities are deviating from its implementation for fear of a new wave of infections. As a result, following Friday’s decision at the situation group meeting, the rules of entry for foreign tourists in April remain as follows: undergo an OT-PCR test on arrival, which requires booking an approved SHA+ hotel for one night and conducting a self-test for the antigen on the fifth day of stay in Thailand.

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