Thailand is back to the constant game of shifting the goalposts on entry regulations every other day and this brings a lot of hassle for travelers who are planning to visit the country for tourism purposes.
The initially lauded Test&Go program has been suspended since December 22, allowing no new applications and despite initial promises that existing passes would be honored for all dates as issue, they are now backtracking on that as well.
Even the Phuket Sandbox is up for debate at the moment as Thai officials are back to their old game of grandstanding, flip-flopping, and a rather helpless attempt to save what’s left of their tourism sector.
Mind you, the Test&Go program was actually rather successful, and since its implementation, a good number of foreign tourists have visited the country again as the requirements weren’t as harsh and relatively easy to fulfill.
With the emergency and rapid rise of the Omicron Covid strain, everything was thrown overboard again and from what it looks like at the moment for every step forward they’re now taking two backward.
As the Bangkok Post reports today a key government meeting on Friday will decide the path forward.
The future of the Test & Go programme for air travellers and reopening of night entertainment are key issues to be thrashed out at a meeting on Friday, officials said on Wednesday.
Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Natapanu Nopakun said the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) will decide on Friday if the suspended Test & Go programme will resume soon. …
Mr Natapanu said daily meetings of the CCSA since the New Year have focused on when the suspension should end and the scheme restart.
“This will be finalised at the CCSA general meeting this Friday,” he said.
The Friday meeting will also decide on the opening up of pubs, bars and karaoke parlours, according to both Mr Natapanu and CCSA assistant spokeswoman Sumanee Wacharasin.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will chair the meeting.
The Public Health Ministry has indicated it does not favour the quick resumption of the Test & Go programme and also wants to delay the resumption of night entertainment because of the highly contagious nature of the Omicron variant.
There are several issues connected with this. For one, that there are problems with these “entertainment venues” is an undeniable fact but an official closure alone will likely not solve the problem.
Both the last Covid spread in April of 2021 and the new one that included Omicron were linked to entertainment venues such as bars and clubs. It’s also well known that the patrons of the specific places linked to these cases are mostly well-off Thai people, not foreigners.
As far as the Test&Go program is concerned I don’t expect it to restart anytime soon but what is happening to the existing passes already issued?
John wrote about this a couple of days ago:
This would mean that the Thai government would once again break their word and people who relied on the previous information that an approved Test&Go Thailand Pass for any future date being honored are now sitting on expenses such as booked flights, hotels, test packages, etc.
The sudden deadline of January 10 that’s being discussed here is crazy. The government meeting is being held on January 7th which is a Friday. How are people supposed to be making decisions and amendments to their trips in the last second?
Travelers are fed up with this constant backtracking and I can see why.
According to a recent data release during the CCSA press conference, out of a total of 32,627 arrivals, 605 people or 1.85% tested positive:
The infection rate of travelers entering #Thailand by air between 1-4 January 2022:
1️⃣ UK 5.92%
2️⃣ USA 5.30%
3️⃣ Germany 2.85%
4️⃣ Sweden 2.33%
5️⃣ France 2.17%
📌 Out of a total of 32,627 arrivals, 605 people or 1.85% tested positive. pic.twitter.com/vfODJELECU
— Thai News Reports (@ThaiNewsReports) January 5, 2022
At this point all one can do is wait and see how it all progresses. Should Thailand decide to not only suspend the Test&Go program, cancel existing entry passes but also to shut down the Phuket Sandbox (which would be a really stupid idea) then that’s another dozen nails in the coffin of the Thai tourism industry.
Meanwhile, as The Thaiger reports, Phuket’s Public Health Organisation had 149 new cases yesterday with 21 cases involving Sandbox travelers and 14 cases involving Test & Go visitors. As of yesterday, 784 patients in Phuket were being treated for Covid-19.
With more cases anticipated, Phuket officials announced that 66 hotels on the island are preparing rooms and procedures for isolating those who are infected.
Lovely prospects, especially with arrivals from overseas now needing to take a second PCR Test at a designated location five days after arrival. If they get infected during the first five days in Thailand and then test positive it’s off to the “Gulag” so to speak.
Thailand seems to be preparing for another strong wave of Covid, this time of the Omnicron variant (which is reportedly milder for the patient but more infectious overall).
Victim number one will once again be travelers from overseas including both returning Thais and foreign nationals. Rather than looking at problems on the inside and especially the porous border to Myanmar, the permanent attention of Thai officials always goes to arrivals that go through the airport even though cases that stem from foreign arrivals are absolutely minimal.
The government’s indecisiveness and always pushing things onto people at the last minute has now reached a point where I can wholeheartedly say to people who ask me about coming to Thailand for holiday: Don’t go. Not now and not in the mid-term future. It’s simply not worth the hassle and potential loss of funds in the process of getting shafted over and over again. I was quite patient over the last year or so and always told folks to wait and see but sadly I can’t see any scenario at this point where the tourist would be the winner in this game.