The National Communicable Disease Committee (NCDC) will propose shorter quarantine periods for some foreign visitors to revive the tourism industry and stimulate the economy.
If approved, select groups of foreign visitors would only have to quarantine for 7–10 days instead of 14.
Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control (DDC), said quarantine would be reduced on a case-by-case basis.
Dr Karnkawinpong was speaking after a health committee meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
The DDC is aiming to reduce the quarantine period to only seven days for fully vaccinated and RT-PCR-tested visitors. If approved, they would be tested using the method upon arrival and again on day seven, Dr Karnkawinpong said.
Quarantine would last 10 days for visitors without a vaccine certificate, he said.
They would have to undergo two RT-PCR tests — first upon arrival and second before finishing their quarantine period, he said, noting visitors under this category must arrive by air.
The current 14-day quarantine period would remain for visitors arriving by land and do not have a vaccine certificate, Dr Karnkawinpong said. They would be subject to two PT-PCR tests — upon arrival and after 12–13 days in quarantine, he said.
The measures would apply to visitors from every country, Dr Karnkawinpong said.
The shorter quarantine period for visitors would not worsen the COVID-19 situation as the Phuket Sandbox reopening project had shown that visitors did not cause outbreaks, he said, noting it was local infections that did.
“The shorter quarantine periods are symbolic of the readiness to co-exist with COVID-19,” Dr Karnkawinpong said. “This will not only help with tourism and businesses, but also benefit those furthering their studies.
“It is difficult to eliminate the virus from society in a short time,” he said. “It is about adjusting and co-existing with the disease and reducing the fatality rate and severe symptom cases.”
Mr Charnvirakul said the committee decided to propose shortening the quarantine period to the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), noting it should be shortened to stimulate the economy.
The policy would be implemented in some tourist areas and officials were evaluating their readiness on vaccination coverage, local COVID-19 situations and hospital bed occupancy rates, he said.
Such areas would first welcome Thai tourists next month to evaluate their readiness before receiving foreign tourists in November, he said.
The committee also acknowledged a plan to administer Pfizer vaccine doses to children 12 years old and older to prepare them for the new school semester.
It also acknowledged a plan to administer jabs to the public from next month until December, when some 125 million vaccine doses are expected to be made available, he said.
A total of 52 million Thais, or 90% of the population, will be inoculated, Mr Charnvirakul said.
The COVID-19 situation in the country has been improving but there are still many new infections and fatalities, prompting agencies to look for better treatment options for patients.
Most new infections were detected in Greater Bangkok and the southern border provinces, he said, noting there have also been new clusters in prisons where infected people were effectively isolated.
Meanwhile, Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday led talks with business organisations to discuss Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang’s preparations for the reopening of the capital.
After the meeting, Mr Angubolkul said they agreed that 70% of residents should first receive two vaccine shots for a safe reopening to foreign visitors.
Currently, only about 44% of Bangkok residents have received two jabs, he said, adding that vaccinations must be expedited from now until 22nd October when 70% of Bangkok residents are expected to be fully vaccinated.