Thailand drops pre-departure RT-PCR tests for overseas arrivals, allows Songkran celebrations
The Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has agreed to cancel the requirement for pre-departure RT-PCR tests for international arrivals, effective from April 1st, and is to allow some celebrations to take place during the Songkran festival in mid-April, according to CCSA Spokesman Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin.
The move is part of the gradual easing of restrictions in an attempt to revive the country’s vital tourism sector, although the CCSA also decided to extend the enforcement of the emergency situation announcement for the 17th time, from April 1st until May 31st.
The CCSA has decided to do away with the requirement for all travellers to Thailand, under the “Test and Go” program, to take an RT-PCR test in the 72 hours before their departure, by land, air, or sea. They still have to take the test upon arrival and self-administer and antigen test on the 5th day of their stay in the country.
Despite proposals for a reduction, however, the minimum required level of travel insurance coverage for foreign tourists arriving in Thailand remains US$20,000.
From April 1st, more entry points for international arrivals will be set up at the land border checkpoint in Satun province, the sea port in Surat Thani province for Thai registered ships and crew and at the airports in Hat Yai, Krabi and Surat Thani
The CCSA has also adjusted COVID-19 zoning, also starting in April, so that some restrictions may be eased further. The controlled area (orange) zone, in which serving of alcohol in eateries remains prohibited, will encompass only 20 provinces, down from 44.
Phetchaburi and Chiang Mai will join the “sandbox” tourism areas, bringing the total to 10 provinces. Other “sandbox” provinces are Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Krabi, Chon Buri, Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Phang-nga and Phuket.
All entertainment venues will remain shut, said Dr. Taweesin, as he advised their operators to convert them into eateries under the COVID Free Setting measures.
The CCSA spokesman said that, while some Songkran celebrations such as traditional water splashing, processions, concerts and other activities, may be held, pre-approval must be sought from authorities for entertainment and recreational activities.
Organisers of the activities, such as concerts and events must comply with the COVID Free Setting measures. For activities in communities and in venues of worship, preventive measures must be observed and community leaders must be notified, although prior permission is not required, said Dr. Taweesin.
Traditional rituals, such the one in which people pay respect to their elders by pouring water over their hands, are permissible, but foam parties, powder painting and selling of alcoholic drinks at celebration grounds are prohibited.
The celebration grounds must have clear exit and entry points, where participants will be screened before entry and the number of participants must be limited to prevent overcrowding, said Dr. Taweesin.
Additionally, the CCSA has approved the Ministry of Public Health’s COVID-19 management plan, to gradually reclassify coronavirus as an endemic disease.
If everything goes according to plan, albeit with full cooperation of people in general, he said the infection rate is expected to decline by July, as projected by the Public Health Ministry.