Thailand suspends tourism as Omicron rises

Photo: Suvarnabhumi International Airport
Photo: Suvarnabhumi International Airport

Starting tomorrow, travelers may no longer apply to enter Thailand for at least two weeks, the prime minister announced late Tuesday afternoon.

Faced with the rise of a worrying mutation of COVID-19, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced after his weekly cabinet meeting that travel restrictions would be reimposed and the so-called Thailand Pass program suspended until at least Jan. 4.

“We won’t accept any more tourists apart from those 200,000 travelers registered” already, he said in a televised address.

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Though Thailand has only logged 60 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant, the fast-spreading and easily transmissible mutation of the virus that threatens to consume the world just as it was coming to terms with the pandemic that’s been burning for two years.

There was some confusion as to whether already booked travelers would be required to quarantine or take additional PCR tests. Since November, a trickle of tourism had resumed under a system allowing vaccinated travelers to travel freely once they had passed a test upon arrival.

A government spokesperson said Thailand Pass’s future would be reevaluated by Jan. 4. It seemed likely that only inbound travel would be affected.

Just yesterday, the public health minister warned the the kingdom may revert to the previous system under which arriving travelers had to enter two weeks of state quarantine if they didn’t fly into one of several designated “sandbox” areas they were not allowed to leave for at least two weeks, such as Phuket.

The nation’s top disease control official said New Year’s events would be allowed to go forward with strict health measures.

Update: No quarantine for travelers already OK’d to visit Thailand: TAT

“As most of our Omicron cases came from abroad, our New Year’s events will remain unaffected,” said Disease Control Department Director Opas Karnkawinpong. “[The events] must follow COVID-19 protocols that ensure social distancing. If everyone can do that, the events can still proceed.”

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Thailand may reimpose traveler quarantine because Omicron

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