Thailand has indefinitely suspended a visa-free quarantine program for vaccinated visitors and ordered a ban on the sale of alcohol in restaurants in areas considered to be at high risk for Covid infections to curb the spread of the omicron variant .
The country’s main virus task force has spared Bangkok, Phuket and six other tourist destinations from severe containment measures, but banned alcohol consumption in restaurants and other commercial establishments after 9 p.m., Taweesilp Visanuyothin said, door -speaking of the working group, during a briefing on Friday.
Foreign visitors already holding valid visas for the quarantine exemption could still enter the country, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said in a statement on Saturday.
Travelers who had previously received approvals under the government’s “Test and Go” program can still enter the country with their approved length of stay, Thanakorn said, reversing a Friday announcement that set the entry deadline for the country. January 15. The government will closely monitor the situation and take into account the number of cases and risk factors to adjust the measures, Thanakorn added.
The Southeast Asian nation reported 8,263 new infections on Saturday, the highest single-day tally since October 31 and a fifth consecutive day of increase. Daily cases jumped last week after falling to their lowest level in six months before Christmas. Health officials have warned that cases could increase rapidly after New Year’s celebrations and the community spread of the omicron strain.
The baht took the losses to a two-week low amid fears the visa suspension could affect tourism foreign exchange earnings, while the benchmark stock index erased the losses after the virus panel ruled out a nationwide lockdown and did not order any business closures.
“Even though the restrictions are not worse than we expected, the recovery in tourism is still unclear and this is not positive news for the baht,” said Tim Leelahaphan, Bangkok-based economist. at Standard Chartered Plc, which sees the currency slipping to 34 per dollar in the first quarter.
The tourism-dependent nation had eased most of its restrictions on businesses and lifted a mandatory quarantine requirement for immune travelers late last year in order to jump-start an economy hit by the pandemic. But omicron derailed the government’s plan to boost the travel industry and the economy.
“The new restrictions will not significantly affect domestic economic activities. The tourism sector, which depends on international arrivals, will however be the most affected, ”said Rachot Leingchan, analyst at the research unit of Bank of Ayudhya Pcl. “Stimulus measures to stimulate domestic consumption will always play a key role in the recovery, and exports will continue to be a positive for the economy.”
Thailand will expand its so-called Phuket Sandbox Program, a different no-quarantine entry process that requires visitors to spend the first week on the island before traveling to other parts of the country, to three other provinces including Krabi and Phang Nga, Taweesilp said. .
The virus task force also called on people to avoid domestic travel and work from home until the end of January after the health ministry on Thursday raised the country’s Covid alert level to second. The panel also recommended lifting the ban on travel from eight African countries from January 11.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s government is trying to speed up the rollout of booster injections, urging all residents who completed their two-dose regimen by November 1 to get their third injection immediately. People at high risk are also eligible for a fourth injection, three months after their third dose.
Only about 10% of the country’s 72 million people have received three injections of the vaccine, considered essential to provide some protection against the omicron strain, while about 65% have already received two doses.
Learn more about restrictions in all 69 provinces starting January 9:
- Ban on gatherings of more than 500 people
- Meetings, conferences and sporting events of more than 1,000 people prohibited
- A capacity limit of 50% for spectators in indoor sports arenas and 75% for outdoor stadiums
- Closures of indoor spaces in theme parks and water parks
- Closures of salons, spas and tattoo parlors after midnight