Thailand drops requirement for pre-departure test for visitors

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand said on Friday that it will abolish a mandatory corona test before departure for visitors from next month, but will still require entry registrations in advance and one on arrival test.

Known for its nightlife and beach destinations, Thailand has sought to revive its pandemic-hit tourism sector by being among the first in the region to ease travel restrictions.

The measures caused the number of arrivals to tick up to almost 134,000 in January this year from around 7,700 in the same month in 2021 – a year in which the Southeast Asian country received only 0.5% of pre-pandemic incomes.

But companies have been pushing for further simplification of entry rules.

From April, Thailand will no longer require visitors to present a negative polymerase chain reaction or PCR test result before arrival, Taweesin Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the government’s COVID-19 task force, told a news conference.

But visitors still need to apply for a special permit to enter the country, which can take up to seven days to get. Those who come under the quarantine-free “Test and Go” and “sandbox” schemes must still undergo a cotton swab on arrival and take a self-administered antigen test on their fifth day in the country.

The “sandbox” program, an option still available at some resorts and only allowing people free movement within the place before traveling elsewhere, will be reduced from seven to five days from April, Taweesin said.

The easing of access measures was announced as the country reported 27,071 new cases on Friday, a record number and 80 new deaths.

(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat)

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