Thailand likely to overturn plan to simplify entry procedures

The latest virus mutant, Omicron, has upset Thai plans to streamline immigration procedures.

The sudden appearance of the Omicron virus variant has dashed expectations that Thailand would ease the health tests conducted on arriving passengers from Test and Go countries which include the US, Australia, parts of the Middle East, the UK and most of Europe.

Currently, they are required to book in advance a government-recognized hotel which picks them up at Bangkok airport, arranges for a RT-PCR virus test and quarantines them in their room for 10-24 hours pending the result.  Under a proposal endorsed by ministers last week, use of quick antigen tests (rather than PCR) was designed to reduce waiting time to 20 minutes.

However, officials from the health ministry and the top CCSA committee appear to have reversed that policy on the grounds that antigen testing is not as reliable as PCR.  They note that entrants to the UK must now – once again – have a PCR test within 48 hours of arrival for precisely that reason.

Chulalongkorn University medic Dr Theera Warathanarat has today strongly urged the government to stick with PCR testing for all entrants.  All flights to Thailand  from several southern African countries, which first reported Omicron although the origin of the mutant is not known, have been cancelled and the Thailand Pass approval withdrawn for those nationals.

Thai travel agents are advising foreign applicants for the Thailand Pass QR code, essential for admission by land or sea or air, to wait for a formal announcement in the next day or two before booking their compulsory hotel.  Israel and Japan have now banned virtually all foreigners from entering, but there is no suggestion that Thailand is considering a universal ban.

The Thailand Pass website is instructing foreigners with flights arriving from December 16 to delay making formal applications until December 1, or Wednesday this week.  This suggests a government announcement is likely very soon.  All foreign entrants require proof of a negative result of a PCR test conducted less than 72 hours before departure, Covid insurance and evidence of approved hotel registration to qualify for Thailand Pass.  Some visas require additional paperwork as listed on various Thai embassy websites round the world.