BANGKOK: Tourism organisations in Thailand have called on the government to ease the COVID-19 requirements for international visitors to boost arrivals in time for the Easter holidays in April.
Presidents of 20 tourism associations and councils submitted a letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and related officials, asking for changes in the government’s COVID-19 protocols for overseas travellers.
Gen Prayut heads the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), which determines Thailand’s directions to control the spread of the coronavirus.
In a letter dated Feb 16, the industry players asked CCSA to consider waiving the requirement for international travellers to undergo a second reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test on the fifth day of their stay.
“This is because the rates of infection among tourists on Day 5 are lower than the rates of local infections at present. This will also reduce tourists’ expenses,” the letter said.
Other requests include a reduced amount of travel insurance coverage from US$50,000 to US$25,000, and a shorter quarantine period for travellers who test positive for COVID-19 from 10 days to five days.
Currently, travellers whose COVID-19 test result returns as positive, are required to remain in isolation for 10 days for medical treatment at a hospital, a hotel or other quarantine facilities.
Besides, the tourism operators also called on CCSA to relax the quarantine requirement for high-risk contacts in case they test negative for COVID-19 on the first day.
“Countries that are our competitors in tourism such as Vietnam and Japan are preparing to announce the relaxation of travel measures in April.
Such relaxation by various countries has made Thailand begin to lose its competitiveness in tourism on the global stage, meaning tourists would choose to visit countries without such measures instead of coming to Thailand,” the letter said.
Thailand resumed its Test & Go tourism scheme on Feb 1 after suspending the applications in December and January due to the wide spread of the highly-infectious Omicron variant.
Under the Test & Go policy, overseas travellers who have been vaccinated against or recovered from COVID-19 are allowed to enter Thailand and travel freely if they test negative upon arrival.
However, they are required to stay at a pre-paid accommodation on their fifth day of stay in order to undergo a second COVID-19 test. Travellers must remain in their room while waiting for the test result.
According to the letter, tourists in Phuket who tested positive between Feb 1 and 13 were in the "Green Group’’ and the majority of them were isolated in hotel rooms.
It said that all these travellers were patients with no or mild symptoms and did not need medical care.
"The private sector has found that despite the high rates of infections at present - which are higher than before both within and outside Thailand - these patients did not burden or put pressure on the public health system,” added the letter.
Besides the proposed relaxation of COVID-19 measures, the tourism sector also asked CCSA to consider declaring COVID-19 an endemic disease by March and to do away with the requirement for RT-PCR test upon arrival.
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