From May 1, 2022, Russians and other foreign tourists arriving in Thailand can take antigen tests instead of PCR tests on the spot. However, as noted by local media, the Thai government will postpone changing the current border restrictions until it can assess the covid consequences of the Songkran festival (Thai New Year, celebrated April 13 – April 15). If Thai officials are satisfied with the sanitary consequences of the holiday, then from May 1, Russians will no longer have to take a PCR test at the entrance and pay an extra night in a hotel while waiting for the results.
The cancellation of the procedure comes after outrage from foreign travelers who had to pay for hotels to wait for results and costly professional tests when they had already done a polymerase chain test before leaving. If approved, tourists will be able to wait for results, which should take no more than 15 to 30 minutes to process, without having to book a hotel and wait overnight for PCR test results, Thailand's deputy health minister explained.
Following a meeting on easing current restrictions, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government will consider further easing travel restrictions next month to allow more tourists to enter the country.
“We will try to make doing everything possible to balance healthcare and the economy,” he elaborated.
Changes tentatively scheduled for next month included the following:
- requiring fewer paperwork for Thai Pass;
- shorter quarantine period for unvaccinated travelers who test positive upon arrival;
- adjustment of the current $20,000 health insurance requirement.
The Thai government has been easing restrictions since the end of February to make it easier for travelers to enter its territory, demanding less with each change the number of documents. Thus, the replacement of PCR tests with antigen tests is in line with the previously published 4-step plan to reduce restrictions and paperwork by July 1 this year.
Previous plans by the Covid-19 Situation Control Center (CCSA) planned to remove PCR testing on arrival and the associated SHA+ overnight hotel reservation and replace this step with rapid antigen testing on arrival at the airport from May 1. However, authorities have now changed their minds and said they will wait until they see any negative impact on covid statistics due to the massive Songkran holiday before they confirm their decision.
About 470,000 foreign tourists arrived in the first quarter of this year, according to the CCSA, up from a total of 420,000 for the entire previous year, which was marked by strict entry conditions. The Ministry of Tourism and Sports estimates that at least 7 million foreign tourists, including Russians, will visit Thailand this year, which is an extremely optimistic estimate given the current optimistic numbers compared to the pandemic period.
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