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Thailand to choose countries to allow entry without quarantine

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Thailand to choose countries to allow entry without quarantine

Thailand will review the list of safe countries whose nationals are entitled to enter the kingdom without quarantine

The spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in Thailand could jeopardise all previous efforts to restart international tourism.

The Thai government is expected to review the list of “Test&Go” countries following the spread of the Covid-19 omicron variant in the kingdom, as the first reported case of the variant within the country had previously been announced, the Bangkok Post reported.

General Supoj Malanyom, head of operations at the Covid-19 Situation Centre, said the list of low-risk countries whose arrivals are eligible for entry under the Test&Go scheme would be reviewed and screening measures for Covid-19 would be strengthened.

The Covid-19 Situation Centre will identify “high risk” countries ahead of Friday’s meeting to decide the extent to which a review of the Test&Go scheme will be required. If the risk of further spread of infection is found to be high, the entry scheme could be suspended altogether, Supoj said.

“We are monitoring the spread of Omicron in other countries, not just in the UK. The situation is alarming and we need to take the necessary precautions,” explained the general.

The Test&Go entry programme was launched in November and applies to fully vaccinate visitors from certain safe countries in an attempt to revitalise the tourism and services industry.

“We should be more stringent on the ‘Test&Go’ scheme and check all arrivals on Covid-19,” General Supoj said.

The general’s statements came after the health ministry said it would support the suspension of the Test&Go scheme and demand that even fully vaccinated arrivals spend time in the sandbox and government quarantines.

Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the health ministry had sent a proposal to the situation room for consideration after new cases of omicron variant were detected in Thailand.

Dr Chakkarat Pitayawong-Anant, director of epidemiology at the Department of Disease Control, on Monday, confirmed the local transmission of Omicron variant. A 49-year-old Thai woman contracted the virus from her husband, a Colombian pilot who arrived in the country from Nigeria on a sandbox programme on November 26.

The man, who had received two shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine before entering Thailand, tested negative for Covid-19 on arrival and was re-inoculated with the Pfizer vaccine on 1 December. From 4 to 6 December, however, he experienced fever, fatigue and sore throat, but tested negative for the antigen.

It was not until 7 December that the man was taken to hospital where the PCR test was positive. On 10 December it was confirmed that he and his wife had contracted the omicron variant. It was later learnt that his wife’s infection was the earliest reported case of Omicron in the country.

Dr Chakkarat also supported the temporary reinstatement of restrictions on entry into the country.

“To slow down the spread of Omicron, we need to do three things – slow down the rate of arrival, especially under the Test&Go programme, speed up vaccination and wear masks,” the doctor said.

As of 19 December, there were 63 confirmed cases of omicron variant infection in Thailand, said Dr Supakyi Sirilak, director-general of the Department of Medical Sciences.

Supakyi noted that the detection rate has increased from 1% last week to 3%. Only 25 per cent of those arriving positive for Covid-19 were found to be infected with the Omicron variant.

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