BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand plans to scrap a mandatory on-arrival Covid-19 test for foreign visitors from next month as the South-east Asian nation steps up efforts to attract more tourists amid a rebound in global travel.
Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests will be replaced with antigen rapid tests at the airports, Deputy Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha told reporters in Bangkok on Friday (April 8) after a meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.
Vaccinated travellers will also no longer need to reserve a one-night hotel stay to secure visas, he said.
Thailand joins countries from Australia to the Philippines and Singapore in easing entry rules as it counts on the return of tourists in large numbers to sustain a nascent economic revival facing risks from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The nation's hotel industry has long demanded the cancellation of the so-called Test & Go visa programme, seen as a major deterrent for travellers.
The virus task force will again review the proposed visa relaxations after next week's Songkran holidays to mark the Thai New Year, Mr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman, told a briefing.
The biggest challenge for Thailand's tourism industry is the lack of visitors from China, which has a zero-Covid-19 strategy and is experiencing a surge in Omicron cases, Mr Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management, wrote in a note on Thursday.
The scrapping of RT-PCR tests may help to strengthen the baht at the margin, he said.
The baht, which has lost more than 3 per cent against the US dollar since the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, is headed for a sixth weekly loss in seven weeks, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Thailand is still battling an Omicron-fuelled virus wave, with new daily infections near a record and fatalities at a six-month high.
The country reported 25,140 new cases and 89 Covid deaths on Friday, Health Ministry data showed.