Thailand will reintroduce a quarantine-free visa program for vaccinated visitors beginning next month, as the tourism-dependent country shifts its focus to economic recovery following a drop in new Covid-19 infections.

Following a meeting of the country’s main Covid task force on Thursday, the government announced that international visitors from all nations can apply for visas under the so-called Test & Go entry program beginning Feb. 1. After arriving, visitors will be subjected to two Covid tests: one on arrival and another on the fifth day.

Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, Minister of Finance, stated: “We can no longer close our borders as the economic costs will be too high. Reopening and managing the outbreak need to go hand in hand.”  

Over the past two years, Thailand has tried a variety of visa, quarantine, and tourism strategies to support a sector that contributed approximately one-fifth of GDP before the pandemic, with 40 million foreign tourists producing more than $60 billion in 2019.

After spikes in the omicron variant were detected among foreign arrivals and in some local communities, the Southeast Asian nation terminated its quarantine-free travel program in late December.

While Thailand saw an increase in new cases following the Christmas and New Year holidays, the numbers are still considerably below the peak tallies seen during the delta wave, and the health-care system has yet to be overwhelmed. Officials said the suspension of the entry scheme, combined with increased vaccinations and stricter local restrictions, helped keep the crisis under control.

The decision to reintroduce the quarantine-free travel program is in line with the government’s call to treat Covid-19 as an endemic disease and attempts to revitalize an industry that employs millions of people.

Nattaporn Triratanasirikul, an economist at Kasikornbank Pcl’s research unit said, “The resumption of this program, which is expected to bring in more foreign tourists, can help strengthen the fragile economic recovery.” According to Nattaporn, roughly 4 million people from other countries are expected to arrive this year.

“The government needs to find way for the economy to run on its own, so they can reduce fiscal support. They can’t afford to borrow such a huge amount of money like before,” the economist said.

Before it was banned, the Test & Go program, which permitted vaccinated travellers from around 60 countries to skip quarantine, helped attract about 350,000 visitors in just two months. People could visit and stay in specific destinations like Phuket and Koh Samui with limited restrictions under narrower visa plans known as Sandbox systems.

– India’s new age travel digital media

Also Read: France Relaxes Travel Restrictions For UK Citizens, Allowing Ski Vacations To Resume


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here