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Land of smiles again gets thumbs-up to new rules

Tourists have given positive feedback after the government’s decision to scrap the Test & Go scheme, a rescinding that took effect on Sunday.

The Bangkok Post interviewed some international arrivals on Sunday and found the move helped them make a decision to visit Thailand.

Kyle Sutherland, a 30-year-old tourist from Canada, is visiting the kingdom with his friends for the first time.

He said the axeing of the RT-PCR test requirement for hotel reservations also helped them save money.

“I like Thai food and Thai boxing so I have decided to come despite the complicated regulations. But not having them makes my life easier.

“Moreover, all countries around the world are going to relax regulations for better convenience as the Covid-19 outbreak declines,” he said.

Justin Chines, 28-year-old American tourist, said he had visited Thailand once in January and found that his visit this time was easier as there were fewer documents to prepare. It took him a few days to complete the Thailand Pass process compared to three weeks when he visited last time.

“I would say that it is very easy this time. I don’t need to show my RT-PCR result and apply for hotel quarantine. It is very convenient. But I think it would be great if there was no longer a requirement for health insurance as it has put up the cost of travel,” he said.

Sorm David, a 27-year-old tourist from Cambodia who is on a five-day trip to Thailand with her friends, said she was happy that Thailand Pass is now more convenient. The cancellation of RT-PCR requirement for fully vaccinated visitors also helped her save money.

Meanwhile, Chayatham Phromsorn, permanent secretary of the Transport Ministry, checked on the readiness of Suvarnabhumi airport on Sunday.

He said international airports were ready to welcome more tourists with the country now reopening.

He expects the number of tourists will increase by 2024 to reach 2019 levels, or about 100,000 passenger arrivals per day at Suvarnabhumi airport or 36.5 million passengers a year.

“All state agencies are now working together to smooth arrivals and departures and eliminate queues at Thailand Pass and immigration checkpoints,” he said.

Mr Chayatham said he observed a flight from Singapore with 330 passengers at the Thailand Pass checkpoint at Suvarnabhumi, and found that public health officers operating 15 booths of the verification system spent about 20 minutes to clear all passengers.

He said the queues were not long at immigration checkpoints either, with immigration officers taking about 15 minutes to clear all 330 passengers.

Unvaccinated passengers or those not fully vaccinated and without a negative RT-PCR test taken 72 hours before travelling will be quarantined for five days.

The airport has prepared a designated channel to take them to quarantine hotels, he said, adding there were only 11 such cases on Sunday.

Suvarnabhumi airport expected 96 arrival flights with 16,868 passengers on Sunday.

Elsewhere, in Phuket, a total of 4,482 passengers were expected to arrive on Sunday, said airport director Monchai Tanode. In May, a daily average of 27 arriving flights are expected as confirmed by 21 airlines, he said.

The Test & Go and Sandbox schemes likewise ended on Sunday for vaccinated travellers, replaced by a “no quarantine” programme. RT-PCR testing is no longer required and Covid-19 insurance is reduced from US$20,000 (about 685,000 baht) to $10,000.

The unvaccinated are now welcome if they present proof of a negative RT-PCR test no more than 72 hours before their trip; but they must be quarantined for five days, with another RT-PCR test on day 4 or 5, and travellers are also advised to self-administer antigen tests during their stay.

Bangkok Post (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

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