Thailand to resume quarantine-free tourism as Covid-19 cases ease

International travellers can start applying for visas under Thailand's Test & Go entry programme from Feb 1. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand will resume a quarantine-free visa programme for vaccinated visitors after its suspension last month helped the tourism-reliant nation curb a new wave of Covid-19 infections.

International travellers can start applying for visas under Thailand's Test & Go entry programme from Feb 1, Ms Rachada Dhnadirek, a government spokesman, said on Twitter after a meeting of the nation's main Covid-19 task force on Thursday (Jan 20).

The quarantine-free entry will be extended to applicants of all nationalities, and they will need to undergo two Covid-19 tests, one upon arrival and another on the fifth day, Ms Rachada said.

The decision to ease entry barriers for travellers is in line with the government's call to treat Covid-19 as endemic this year and efforts to revive the tourism sector that employs millions of people.

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.

Tourism-reliant Thailand has experimented with several plans over the past two years to try to restart 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 (S$81 billion) in 2019.

The Test & Go programme, which previously 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 have since widened its Phuket Sandbox tourism programme to three more regions - Krabi, Phang Nga, and islands in Surat Thani (including Ko Samui) - to lure holidaymakers.

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