21 May 2024

The Thai government has imposed a total ban on arrivals from eight African countries, effective today (Saturday), and those who already have permission to enter the country will be subject to quarantine for 14 days from tomorrow.

The countries are Botswana, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Additionally, nationals from these countries, where the new coronavirus variant known as Omicron has been found or who are at risk of spreading it, will not be allowed to apply to enter Thailand, effective today. Those already granted permission to enter Thailand must arrive before December 15th and will be subject to state quarantine for 14 days and three COVID-19 tests.

Entry via the “Test and Go” or “sandbox” programs is not permitted.

The immediate action by the Public Health Ministry follows a statement by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha via Facebook this morning, saying that he is ready to order the immediate restriction of travel to and from any country where the new coronavirus variant is spreading.

The prime minister also said he has instructed the three armed forces and the police to keep an even closer watch on the country’s borders, to stop the smuggling of illegal immigrants and to support the screening of foreign migrant workers under an orderly employment program.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the new coronavirus variant to be “of concern” and named it Omicron. The WHO says it has a large number of mutations and early evidence suggesting an increased reinfection risk.

The variant was first reported to the WHO by South Africa on November 24th and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

A number of other countries have now decided to ban or restrict travel to and from southern Africa.

Thailand’s Disease Control Department Director-General, Dr. Opart Karnkawinpong, disclosed that screenings of 1,007 arrivals from 12 African countries, under the “sandbox” program, have all been clear of COVID-19.

Medical Sciences Department Director-General, Dr. Supakit Sirilak, explained that Omicron is not related to the Delta or Beta variants, but is a new 32 point variant.

He said that, at this stage however, there is still limited data about its transmissibility, adding that Thai researchers have examined over 7,000 genetic samples and have not yet found the new variant.