Effective as of December 22, 2021, Thailand’s Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration suspended temporarily the Thailand Pass programs for all new Test & Go and Sandbox applications (except the Phuket Sandbox).
Approximately 200,000 travelers have received a Thailand Pass QR code but have yet to enter the country. These travelers will be allowed to enter Thailand under the conditions of the scheme they registered for except the government will introduce new measures for contact tracing and will ensure all travelers are tested two times during their stay using the RT-PCR method. The second test will be without charge at government-designated facilities.
The reason for suspending the programs is rising numbers of infections attributed to SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.529, the Omicron variant. While Omicron is becoming more prevalent, the overall numbers of infections continues to decline. The decline in cases probably won’t last once Omicron takes hold.
This post is a good opportunity also to share what is known publicly about where the visitors to Thailand have been coming from under the Thailand Pass programs. I’ve been keeping an eye out, but so far, it appears the Thai government has released this information only for the first few days of the Thailand Pass program.
According to the Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, during the period November 1-10, 2021, there were a total of 30,538 visitor arrivals to Thailand at all international airports in Bangkok (Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang), Phuket, Samui, and Chiang Mai.
The top 10 countries were:
- USA – 3,864 arrivals
- Germany – 3,274 arrivals
- UK – 1,785 arrivals
- Japan – 1,713 arrivals
- South Korea – 1,296 arrivals
- Russia – 1,140 arrivals
- Switzerland – 1,116 arrivals
- Sweden – 1,041 arrivals
- France – 923 arrivals
- UAE – 810 arrivals
The 30,538 arrivals included 19,949 visitors under the Exemption from Quarantine (Test & Go) entry scheme, 9,072 under the Living in the Blue Zone (17 Sandbox destinations) program, and 1,517 under the Happy Quarantine (cute term) requirements for either a 7-day quarantine (453 arrivals) or a 10-day quarantine (1,064 arrivals).
It is surprising that so many would endure being cooped up in a hotel room for so long under quarantine. The people quarantining may not be traditional tourists but are possibly employees on longer-term assignments or foreigners who live in Thailand for extended periods who do not meet the requirements for no-quarantine entry.
Under the conditions when it was conceived, the Thailand Pass Test & Go and Sandbox programs were excellent approaches to bringing in more international tourists safely and providing life support to the Thai tourism industry. Unfortunately, with Covid conditions can change drastically with little notice. That creates a lot of uncertainty about travel and many things we do at home. While Thailand is currently maintaining the Thailand Pass programs under the original conditions for those who have been approved, if cases spike because of Omicron, I’d expect Thailand will adopt stricter entry requirements even for those who have been already gotten their QR codes.