Travel restrictions

Songkran figures to determine future easing of travel restrictions

A worker sprays disinfectant on buses on Thursday, ahead of the exodus out of Bangkok for the Songkran holiday next week. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

Further easing of travel restrictions to help the struggling tourism sector will depend on an assessment of the Covid-19 situation after the Songkran holiday next week.

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesperson for the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said a CCSA meeting on Friday agreed in principle on the need for friendlier measures to attract tourists.

When that would happen depended on the number of new infections after the Thai New Year break.

Dr Taweesilp said the CCSA “agreed in principle but did not endorse” the measures tentatively set for May that were presented at the meeting.

The spokesperson said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who chaired the meeting, wanted to assess the infection situation after the long break. “The prime minister wants to see the (Covid) numbers after Songkran,” he said.

The rate of new infections of tourists entering Thailand from the beginning of this month would also be taken into consideration.

Restrictions have been gradually eased since November last year, to help the tourism sector. The government last week lifted the requirement for a pre-travel RT-PRC test for arriving air travellers, from April 1. They are always subjected to an RT-PCR test on arrival.

About 470,000 foreign tourists arrived in the first quarter of this year, surpassing last year’s total number of 420,000, according to the CCSA.

The spokesperson admitted that the existing measures do not allow Thailand to compete with other countries that also rely on spending by foreign tourists.

Dr Taweesilp said the next meeting of full CCSA members after Songkran would decide when more restrictions could be lifted.

Changes tentatively planned for next month included requiring fewer documents to register for the Thailand Pass, a shorter quarantine period and a reduction in the health insurance coverage requirement of US$20,000.

The date of the meeting has not been set, he said.