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Thailand reinstates mandatory COVID-19 quarantine, scraps waiver programme

Thailand reinstates mandatory COVID-19 quarantine, scraps waiver programme

A woman walks through the arrival area at Phuket International Airport in Thailand on Nov 1, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Mladen Antonov)

BANGKOK: Thailand will reinstate its mandatory COVID-19 quarantine for foreign visitors and scrap a quarantine waiver from Tuesday (Dec 21), a government spokeswoman said, due to concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The decision to halt Thailand's "Test and Go" waiver means visitors will have to undergo hotel quarantine, which ranges between 7 to 10 days.

Meanwhile, a so-called "sandbox" programme, which requires visitors to remain in a specific location but allows them free movement outside of their accommodation, will also be suspended in all places except for the tourist resort island of Phuket.

"After Dec 21, there will be no new registrations for 'Test and Go', only quarantine or Phuket sandbox," said deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhanadirek.

On Monday, the country reported its first case of local transmission of the Omicron variant. 

Thailand had reopened to foreign visitors in November, ending almost 18 months of strict entry policies that contributed to a collapse in tourism, a key industry and economic driver that drew 40 million visitors in 2019. 

Thailand has so far detected 63 cases infected with the Omicron variant, with one case of local transmission and the rest imported cases.

About 200,000 visitors who had previously registered for the quarantine waiver and sandbox programme will still be eligible, said government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.

"This is not to shut off tourists but to temporarily suspend arrivals," he said.

The decision will be reviewed on Jan 4, he added. 

Thailand was a popular tourist destination for Singaporeans before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singapore launched its vaccinated travel lane for Thailand on Dec 14, allowing fully vaccinated passengers on designated flights from Thailand to enter Singapore without having to serve quarantine.

The authorities have previously advised Singaporeans and residents to monitor the latest public health and border measures in the countries they are visiting, and plan ahead for contingencies.

CNA has contacted Thai authorities about the implications for visitors from Singapore who were intending to travel to Thailand and then return to Singapore via the vaccinated travel lane.

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Source: Reuters/lk(zl)

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