Gates closing: no new Test & Go, limited Sandbox entries
Those already approved can still arrive as planned
21 December, 2021
The government has stopped approving new applications for Test & Go and Sandbox entries -- other than through the Phuket Sandbox -- but will let those already approved arrive in Thailand as planned, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Tuesday.
After chairing a meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) at Government House, Gen Prayut said the resolution was based on fears of the spread of Omicron and the safety of people in the country.
The prime minister said about 200,000 visitors had applied for entry through the Test & Go and Sandbox schemes, and about 110,000 of them had already arrived.
A further 90,000 have already been approved through the schemes, and they will be allowed into the country. Their health will be monitored after arrival.
"There will be no new approvals for the arrival schemes until the situation is reviewed on Jan 4," Gen Prayut said.
He said officials had assured him that resources would be sufficient and health personnel capable of handling any Omicron outbreak that might result from approved applicants yet to arrive.
"Importantly, although the Omicron variant spreads fast, its symptoms are controllable and treatment is easier," Gen Prayut said.
With the suspension of Test & Go and Sandbox entry options, quarantine would be fully restored for arrivals, he said.
Quarantine periods will last 7 or 10 days depending on country of origin and vaccination status.
The Test & Go entry scheme applies to visitors from specific countries, while the Sandbox scheme is open to all visitors from abroad. All arrivals through the programmes must be fully vaccinated and test negative for Covid-19 shortly before entering the country.
Apart from the decision to suspend the Test & Go and Sandbox entry programmes, the CCSA did not resolve to make any other changes related to the Omicron situation on Tuesday, Gen Prayut said.
Dr Kiatiphum Wongrachit, permanent secretary for public health, said new registration for all Test & Go and Sandbox entries, except the Phuket Sandbox scheme, would be suspended from Dec 21 to Jan 4.
Dr Kiatiphum said that the last group of previously approved arrivals via Test & Go and Sandbox would arrive on Jan 10.
Dr Kiatiphum also said that based on the Covid-19 infection rate of 0.1-0.2% among visitors, health authorities expect about 100 Covid-19 cases among the total 200,000 visitors arriving through the Test & Go and Sandbox entry programmes.
https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/ge ... ox-entries
A recap and FAQS of today’s MAJOR Thailand Pass suspension-related announcements
By Adam Judd
21 December, 2021
The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has halted new “Thailand Pass” registration except for Alternative Quarantine and Phuket Sandbox and suspended the “Test & Go” no-quarantine tourism scheme for all international tourists, effective tonight at midnight.
About 90,000 (This number varies widely depending on government source-TPN) registered arrivals who already declared their intention to visit the country can continue to arrive in the country but must go through additional health measures and an additional RT-PCR test on their seventh day of arrival (which will be free, at a government-designated location) as well as strictly follow guidelines issued by the Ministry of Public Health to prevent the imported case of the Omicron variant in Thailand.
New Year’s events and activities will not be ordered canceled but must abide by rules and restrictions of the Public Health, according to the order of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O’Cha.
The general committee of the CCSA will reportedly observe the situation of the Omicron spread closely and will reconsider the measures again on roughly January 4th.
According to the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs, new measures apply for all applicants on Thailand Pass, starting immediately. Applicants who have already been approved for their Thailand Pass and have their QR code can enter on the original plan they applied for. For example, if you are approved for a Thailand pass and applied for a test and go in Pattaya, you will still be allowed to enter via Test and Go in Pattaya.
Those who have not received their QR Code must wait for their Thailand Pass to be considered/approved. Once approved, they can enter Thailand under the scheme they have registered for. If rejected, however, one will need to either wait for an evaluation of the measures or apply for entry through Phuket Sandbox or Alternative Quarantine.
Thailand Pass will as of midnight tonight, December 21st/morning of December 22nd only accept new applicants seeking to enter Thailand under Alternative Quarantine (AQ) or the Phuket Sandbox.
Passengers who will arrive in Thailand under the Test and Go and Sandbox Programme must undergo their 2nd COVID-19 test using the RT-PCR technique (not ATK self-test) at government-designated facilities with no additional costs on the seventh day.
FAQS from questions we have had today mostly not covered above
Disclaimer: This is a highly fluid situation and we put this together to help and support our readers. We will update this often as more information from the government is released or changed. Changes can sometimes happen within hours (as of today with all of this information) so please be aware, but was correct as of press time.
Q. Are the Thai borders closed?
A. No. The change is a temporary suspension of some entry programs for new applications to Thailand Pass, like test and go and all sandboxes except Phuket until further notice, currently scheduled to be reviewed around January 4th. Alternative Quarantine and Phuket Sandbox remain open for international visitors.
Q. Is this permanent?
A. No, it is temporary, once again, Test and Go and the other “sandbox” zones are not gone for good.
Q. Why is Thailand doing this during the normally busiest time of the year?
A. According to the Ministry of Public Health, this gives Thai scientists and doctors time to continue to assess the Omicron variant and its severity as well as the ongoing Omicron situation around the world.
Q. Is Thailand entering a lockdown?
A. According to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan O’Cha, these measures are designed to hopefully avoid more restrictions, closures, canceling New Year’s events, or other major disruptions domestically. At this time no further restrictions are planned, of course, this could change if the situation in Thailand with Omicron and Covid-19 changes. New Year’s events, including in Pattaya, will continue for now with Covid-safe rules.
Q. I am approved for Thailand Pass but it is past January 10th. Is this a problem?
A. If you are approved for Thailand Pass, or applied before the cutoff and approved, regardless of date, you will be allowed to enter on your previously approved scheme/plan. The January 10th date was miscommunication earlier from multiple outlets.
Q. I am approved for Thailand Pass and arrive (insert date) on test and go. I saw somewhere else I have to do quarantine still?
A. No, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You will still be allowed, as stated above, to enter on your previously approved plan but with an additional RT-PCR test on day seven.
Q. Is this in the Royal Gazette yet?
A. Not yet but soon. For those arriving before that, you won’t need to do that additional RT-PCR test, ie. the next few hours.
Q. Can I transit through Bangkok for the Phuket Sandbox?
A. It’s looking like a no, same as prior Phuket Sandbox rules, although this could be re-evaluated.
Q. Is Phuket Sandbox 7 days or fourteen days?
Q. Is Phuket Sandbox hotel only?
A. No. It is a sandbox. You are free to travel around the island if approved for the sandbox program.
Q. Will Phuket Sandbox include nearby islands like before?
A. Unclear. Getting more information on this. With the suspension of other “blue” (A tourism zone designation, Business, Leisure, Ultimate Experience) coded tourism zones, it is unlikely.
Q. Where are more details on the Phuket Sandbox?
A. This is a good link from TAT, keep in mind that the other “Blue Zones” are not open during the suspension period, only Phuket is, but the rules are the same.
Q. Why is ONLY Phuket being allowed for a Sandbox? Why not Pattaya? Or Bangkok?
A. Again, this is temporary only. Phuket was not only the first sandbox and has ample experience but is also 1. Heavily boosted with third vaccine doses and 2. Easy to control access points for. Pattaya and Bangkok are neither. Other islands, meanwhile, have not implemented large-scale booster campaigns yet.
Q. Will they change any of the low-risk or high-risk countries for Thailand Pass/Test and Go, could this change the rules?
A. This is likely going to be looked at later this week and the short answer is yes, it could, but is useless to speculate.
Q. How long is alternative (hotel) quarantine?
A. This can depend on the country you are coming from. It can vary between 7, 10, to 14 days. You need to check with your local embassy or consulate.
Q. What happens if I test positive for Covid-19 on a test/someone near me tests positive?
A. You will be quarantined at a hospital or version of a hospital (quarantine hotel, etc), depending on your symptoms, risk status, etc. The quarantine period may even vary based on a number of factors. This is a difficult question to answer and has been covered in other articles and will not be the main focus of this topic as it will depend greatly on doctors and staff involved as well as one’s health. As for if someone near you tests positive, this is changing constantly and is also difficult to answer clearly.
Q. When will the suspension be evaluated?
A. Around January 4th. There is no “set in stone” promise it will change, however, it is merely an evaluation.
Q. Should I cancel my planned trip?
A. If you are already approved for a Thailand Pass or have applied and get your approval, your previously applied for plan still applies, so our answer would be no, although keeping an eye on travel conditions in your home country as well as potential risks if testing positive and having to quarantine need to be kept in mind. If you have NOT applied, contrary to belief, many people had a great time in the Phuket Sandbox previously and there is no lockdown and currently, everything is basically open there. However, for those returning home/ex-pats, this might not be an option, and waiting for the evaluation might be suggested. It is, as they say, up to you.
We will add more questions as we get them on social media, comments, or e-mail at [email protected]
https://thepattayanews.com/2021/12/21/a ... uncements/
Thailand suspends Test & Go, reimposes quarantine due to omicron fear
By Bangkok Herald
December 21, 2021
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha today rolled back Thailand’s reopening to foreign tourists, reimposing mandatory seven-day quarantine for all international arrivals who haven’t already been approved.
The unsurprising move had been expected to be taken Friday at a meeting of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, which Prayut chairs. With testing on another 92 suspected cases of the coronavirus omicron variant pending, the PM called a quick, urgent session of the CCSA to rubber stamp his desire to clamp down on arrivals amid a surge in coronavirus omicron variant cases worldwide.
A news conference at the Public Health Ministry, however, added more confusion than clarity, with no one mentioning that quarantine would be imposed immediately.
Critics quickly jumped on the government for yet again failing to put out clear rules and engaging in incoherent messaging that illustrates the lack of coordination and total chaos the government has shown throughout the pandemic.
According to Prayut’s initial announcement, from Dec. 22 through Jan. 4, the Foreign Affairs Ministry will not issue any new Thailand Pass QR codes for the misnamed “Test & Go” scheme, which allowed tourists, expats and returning Thais to stay only one night in a government-certified hotel while awaiting results of an RT-PCR coronavirus test before getting unrestricted access to the entire country.
The 90,000 people with approved Thailand Pass QR codes can still use them until Jan. 10. However, no new applications will be accepted during that time. The CCSA will re-evaluate on Jan. 4.
Anyone with an approved QR code can enter as per Test & Go, but will be subjected to a second, free, RT-PCR test on the seventh day after arrival. It’s unclear how the government will enforce this, as Test & Go travelers can go anywhere they like after the negative first test result.
Also unclear was when quarantine would be reimposed on those without approved QR codes. Again, the messaging implies one hand (Prayut) doesn’t know what the other (Public Health Ministry) is doing.
Without Test & Go, all arrivals would have to be confined to an alternative quarantine hotel for 14 days or enter via the Phuket “sandbox” program, as was the case before Thailand’s Nov. 1 “reopening”, which now is headed the other way.
All of the other 16 sandboxes, including Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Samui, Phangnga and Bangkok, have been suspended until at least Jan. 4.
Phuket sandbox travelers cannot leave the island for a week, but are not confined to their hotels. The other sandboxes were suspended because keeping people in areas like Pattaya or Bangkok, for example, is basically impossible.
The suspension of Test & Go and reimposition of lengthy quarantines deals a body blow to the tourism industry, which was only starting to recover.
As the news was being announced, a group of 30 tourism-business operators descended upon the Public Health Ministry to decry the Test & Go suspension, pointing out it will hurt their businesses, especially during the lead-up to the New Year’s holiday.
A group representative said that people in the tourism sector are afraid that the suspension may lead to a partial lockdown of the country again. She berated the ministry and CCSA for instilling fear in people about the omicron variant and to declare Covid-19 an endemic disease that is treatable.
https://www.pattayamail.com/thailandnew ... ear-383539
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After reading this, I'm not so sure:
Phuket hotels desperate as "insured" foreign tourists with Covid denied coverage, refuse to go to hospital - "Hospitel" shortage admitted
January 4, 2022
Manager reported from Phuket saying there was a severe crisis among increasing numbers of foreigners on the holiday island testing positive for Covid-19 at the start of their stay.
Their sources indicated - following similar suggestions on social media - that an increasing number of asymptomatic foreigners were testing positive for Covid on day one.
These are the so called "Green Cases".
Hotels want them off the premises and sent to hospitals but the insurance companies are refusing to honor policies saying they have to pay for hospitals.
The foreigners are pointing out that they are insured and won't pay for hospitalization.
This, said the source, meant that a large number of foreign tourists are refusing to budge at hotels.
This could mean, despite protocols being in place, that staff get infected and hotels are forced to shut down.
He called on immediate government action to address the growing crisis in Phuket.
Meanwhile Dr Kusak Kukiatkul of the Phuket health authority confirmed that the "Green Cases" didn't want to go to hospitals as they came from countries where asymptomatic cases could just quarantine at home.
And he admitted that there were simply not enough places in so called "hospitels" to accommodate them.
He accepted that insurance companies were not covering these eventualities when it came to hospital coverage for green cases and foreigners didn't want to pay insisting they were covered.
So they were just staying in the hotels.
Dr Kusak said there were negotiations underway to help with the situation.
https://aseannow.com/topic/1245465-phuk ... -admitted/