BANGKOK: The Government announced today (Dec 21) that mandatory quarantine measures for ovreseas visitors will be reinstated due to concerns over the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Visitors arrive at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan yesterday (Dec 20). Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb / Bangkok Post
A Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) meeting today chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha confirmed a suspension of quarantine-free entry for overseas visitors as of today until Jan 4.
The decision will be reviewed again on Jan 4, confirmed Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow.
This will result in the “Test & Go” initiative, which allowed tourists from 67 approved countries, being scrapped and visitors having to undergo hotel quarantine between 7-10 days.
“Sandbox” programmes will also cease nationwide aside from in Phuket, confirmed deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhanadirek.
“After Dec 21, there will be no new registrations for ‘Test and Go’, only quarantine or Phuket Sandbox,” she said earlier today.
The news came weeks after the country reopened to fully vaccinated tourists on Nov 1 and a day after the first confirmed case of local transmission of the Omicron variant.
Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said that visitors who had previously received approval on their quarantine waiver and sandbox program, estimated at around 200,000, will still be eligible and that roughly 110,000 had already arrived.
However, they would need to undergo two PCR tests while in the country, one on arrival and another on day seven of their stay.
“This is not to shut off tourists but to temporarily suspend arrivals,” Thanakorn said.
Public Health Permanent Secretary, Dr Kiatiphum Wongrachit, said that the last group of previously approved arrivals via “Test & Go” and “Sandbox” would arrive on or before Jan 10.
Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul claimed reintroducing a complete lockdown would be a last resort.
“We are prepared for the situation and will respond promptly so there will be no need to worry about closing businesses,” he said.
“We will protect as much as possible and we must make Thailand safe.”