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

A traveler is greeted at Phuket International Airport in a Dec. 16 photo. Photo: Phuket International Airport
A traveler is greeted at Phuket International Airport in a Dec. 16 photo. Photo: Phuket International Airport

After pouring cold water on the kingdom’s hope for tourism recovery – and muddying that water with confusing details – tourism officials last night clarified that travelers already approved for entry may proceed as expected.

The 200,000-or-so visitors who have received their QR codes under the so-called Thailand Pass program will only need to submit to a second RT-PCR test at the government’s expense, the tourism authority announced, acknowledging the “very fluid and fast changing [sic] situation.”

The program was abruptly suspended yesterday in the face of several dozen cases of a worrying COVID-19 variant that, while still under study, is highly transmissible and expected to ignite outbreaks worldwide. The announcement had the effect of pouring gas on the smoldering remains of the tourism industry and fit an established pattern of announce first, figure out details later.

Thailand suspends tourism as Omicron rises

The move was widely slammed as an overreaction with little hope of achieving more than keeping families apart and harming the economy.

“Virus doesn’t give a shit about Thailand pass, test and go, or sandboxes,” Luke Hubbard tweeted. Once you have local spread it’s just a matter of time.”

The COVID-19 task force ordered a stop to all new applications under the tourism regimen in place since November that allowed vaccinated travelers free movement once they had passed a test upon arriving. 

The authority said additional contact-tracing measures would be imposed, and the second required test would take place at “government-designated facilities [at] no additional cost.”

“Applicants who have registered, but have not received their QR Code must wait for their Thailand Pass to be considered / approved,” the authority said in a statement. “Once approved, they can enter Thailand under the scheme they have registered.”

Travelers may still apply to enter via the “sandbox” scheme that requires them to remain in a designated travel area and submit to a battery of tests, as well as something the government calls “Happy Quarantine,” which they probably do not realize sounds much worse. 

The suspension will be reviewed in two weeks.

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