BANGKOK—Thailand will resume its quarantine-free travel scheme from February 1, officials said Thursday, after the program was suspended due to the fast-spreading omicron COVID-19 variant.
Pandemic travel curbs have hammered the kingdom's tourism-dominated economy, sending visitor numbers dwindling to a trickle.
Fully vaccinated travelers will now be able to enter under the "test and go" scheme as long as they take COVID tests on the first and fifth days after arriving, spokesman for the country's COVID-19 task force Taweesin Visanuyothin told reporters.
Visitors will have to isolate at a hotel while waiting for their test results and will be required to download a tracking app to ensure they comply with the rules.
Seeking to bounce back from its worst economic performance since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Thailand launched the "test and go" scheme in November as an alternative to 2 weeks' hotel quarantine.
The program was suspended late last month over fears about omicron, but with deaths and hospitalizations not spiking, Taweesin said it could resume, though the authorities will keep it under review.
"In case there are more infections or the situation changes, there will be a re-assessment for inbound travelers and adjust toward the sandbox scheme," Taweesin said.
Under the sandbox program launched last year as a first step towards resuming tourism, fully jabbed visitors spend 7 nights in certain designated locations, such as the resort island of Phuket, before being allowed to travel on to the rest of Thailand.
In a further relaxation of COVID restrictions, restaurants will be allowed to serve alcohol until 11 p.m. -- easing the current 9 p.m. cut-off.
The tourism ministry estimates that some 5 million foreign visitors will come to Thailand in 2022 -- down from nearly 40 million in the year before the pandemic.