Thailand’s quarantine-free travel pass suspended over concerns over Omicron variant


(CNN) — Amid the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Thailand has announced some changes to its quarantine-free inbound travel status for some visitors.

From midnight on December 22, new requests for quarantine exemption under the Thailand Pass program will not be considered. The government says it is a temporary suspension rather than a permanent ban, but there is no date yet for the suspension to be lifted.

The Thailand Pass was one of the Southeast Asian country’s significant moves towards reopening travel. Tourism is one of Thailand’s largest industries, with nearly 40 million visitors in 2019. Under the terms of the Thailand Pass, fully vaccinated people hoping to visit a low-risk country could apply to bypass quarantine upon arrival. .

The pass, which was part of the “Test & Go program”, began on November 1.

According to a Thai government press release, 200,000 people have so far applied for the pass, which comes with a phone QR code allowing them to travel freely around the country and enter restaurants, attractions , shops and other public places.

Travelers who have already applied and been approved will not be affected by the new regulations. However, if they have not yet entered Thailand, they will now have to take two PCR tests after arrival, one of which will be at a government facility.

From now on, travelers to Thailand – with the exception of those participating in the Phuket Sandbox program – will be subject to a quarantine of seven to 10 days, depending on their country of origin.

Thailand has also announced that it will expand the national contact tracing program, but has not yet shared details on how this will happen.

Those who have applied for the Thailand Pass but have not yet been approved can also continue as normal once they receive a response to their application.

The Omicron variant was first identified by scientists in South Africa in November. It is now the dominant strain of new infections in the United States.

CNN’s Eric Cheung contributed to this report.

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