Resume Test & Go scheme, major hospitality firm urges Thai PM


A major tourism and food & beverage operator in Thailand has called on the government to resume the Test & Go scheme or at least open more “sandbox” destinations to help the tourism business.

Minor International board chairman William Ellwood Heinecke made the call in his open letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Heinecke said that although the government may not be able to contain the spread of the Omicron variant in a short time, it should take into account that the strain caused much less severe symptomatic disease, resulting in much fewer hospitalisations and deaths.

As a result, he said the government should deal with Omicron differently from previous Covid-19 waves.

He urged the government to speed up vaccinations of people who have not been inoculated and quickly administer booster shots instead of shutting the country's doors to foreign tourists.

The Minor International chairman said the government should use the same regulations as other countries for accepting foreign tourists as strict rules are no longer necessary under the Omicron situation.

For example, the requirement for health insurance against Covid-19 and advance room reservations are no longer necessary, he insisted.

Heinecke said foreign tourists should be required to provide only a vaccine certificate and Covid-19 negative test results.

Because of the milder symptomatic disease associated with Omicron, the government should resume its Test & Go scheme or open more “sandbox” areas soon, he added.

The Test & Go programme, which allowed fully vaccinated tourists to stay just one night in a quarantine hotel as they await their RT-PCR test results, has been indefinitely suspended. Instead, the government is allowing tourists to visit Phuket, Phang-nga, Krabi, Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao under extended sandbox schemes.

Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn meanwhile said the Public Health Ministry would consider resuming the Test & Go scheme once the Omicron situation improves.

The Public Health Ministry announced on Thursday morning that there were 8,167 new Covid-19 cases in the previous 24 hours.

Yuthasak said the Omicron spread has not affected tourism in Phuket so far.

On Tuesday, 3,800 foreigners applied to visit Thailand via the Thailand Pass online system, with 3,700 of them seeking to visit Phuket and the other 100 planning to head to other “sandbox” provinces, the TAT governor said.

He said that although the number of new Covid-19 cases in Phuket had increased, most of them did not display any symptoms so they could be quarantined in their hotels.

Yuthasak said TAT held a meeting with Phuket Governor Narong Woonsiew on Monday and the governor expressed confidence that the provincial administration could handle the Omicron situation.

The governor reported that most tourists who were infected with Omicron did not feel ill so they were allowed to choose to quarantine in hospitals, hotels or hospitels.

Most chose to quarantine in their hotel rooms, the TAT governor said.

So far, the number of hotels for quarantining tourists with expected Omicron has been increased to around 800 rooms, Yuthasak added.