Thailand has suspended its “Test and Go” quarantine exemption scheme until at least Jan. 4 and reinstated mandatory quarantine for all travelers to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced on Tuesday.
The Test and Go scheme was launched on Nov. 1 to allow fully vaccinated travelers from 63 countries to enter Thailand without going through quarantine. Travelers would in turn be required to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus upon arrival.
Prayut said the government has temporarily halted the quarantine waiver on Tuesday, reinstating seven to 10 days of quarantine requirement to all travelers.
“There will be no approval of new applications until the situation is reviewed on Jan. 4,” he told reporters after a meeting, reported Bangkok Post.
The country’s “Phuket Sandbox” program, which allows travelers to visit Phuket province without having to undergo quarantine, will continue to operate as planned. Prayut said those who have already applied for the Test and Go scheme would still be allowed to enter Thailand.
Thailand has received about 200,000 applications for the Test and Go and Sandbox schemes, 110,000 of which had arrived, while 90,000 more travelers are pending approval for their applications, Prayut said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also released new measures for applicants in a tweet on Tuesday, saying that the Test and Go scheme registration will be closed from Dec. 22 onwards.
It stated that passengers who arrive in Thailand under Test and Go and Sandbox schemes must undergo a second Reverse Transcription PCR test for the CCP virus at government-designated facilities.
The announcement came after Thailand confirmed its first locally transmitted Omicron case on Monday, a 49-year-old woman who contracted the variant from her Colombian husband, 62, who returned from Nigeria in late November.
Sumanee Wacharasin, a senior health official, said the husband had been fully vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine in Nigeria and returned to Thailand on Nov. 26. He stayed at a hotel in Bangkok under the Sandbox scheme after being tested negative for the virus, reported Bangkok Post.
The patient received a Pfizer booster shot on Dec. 1 and returned home on Dec. 4, but was later experienced a fever, sore throat, and tiredness. He took an antigen test on Dec. 6, but the test came out negative. The Omicron variant was only detected after he was sent to a hospital on Dec. 7.
The wife was confirmed to have contracted Omicron on Dec. 10. Sumanee said a taxi driver who took the couple to the hospital had been placed under quarantine, pending a second test due on Dec. 22.
Thailand has detected a total of 63 Omicron cases to date.