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Thailand loosens entry restrictions as omicron worries ease

Last Updated Jan 20, 2022 at 5:30 am MDT

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand will ease entry requirements for vaccinated visitors from all countries next month as concerns about the omicron variant of the coronavirus decline, officials said Thursday.

The country’s tourism-dominated economy was devastated by travel restrictions imposed in 2020 to fight the spread of COVID-19. The number of foreign tourists has remained low despite a relaxation of the restrictions last year.

Fully vaccinated travelers will be able to enter the country under the “Test and Go” program if they undergo a RT-PCR test on arrival and spend a night in a pre-booked hotel while awaiting results, and then have a second test and hotel stay five days later. The visitor is responsible for the costs of the tests and hotels.

Visitors must also download a tracking app.

An earlier “Test and Go” program with a single RT-PCR test was introduced in November as virus cases declined in Thailand and vaccination rates surged, but was suspended in December after the omicron variant was judged a threat.

The scheduled Feb. 1 revival of the program, with the addition of the second test, was announced Thursday after a meeting of the government’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration chaired by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

“The country will benefit from both Thai and foreign visitors as well as investors who help stimulate the economy,” center spokesperson Taweesin Visanuyothin said.

The center also agreed to ease COVID-19 prevention measures in 25 provinces that have had tight restrictions.

Prayuth said on his Facebook page that the actions were taken in response to a better-than-expected situation with the omicron variant, and to promote economic recovery while maintaining heath safety.

The government also currenlty allows entry to visitors who quarantine for seven to 10 days in approved hotels, or join “sandbox” programs in areas such as the resort island of Phuket where they have freedom of movement during a seven-day quarantine period.

Thailand reported 8,129 new COVID-19 cases and 19 deaths on Thursday, bringing its total confirmed cases to 2,353,062 and related deaths to 21,987.

The Associated Press