Thailand Suspends Quarantine-free Visas to Fight Omicron

Photo: Collected

To combat the spread of the omicron variant, Thailand has stopped a quarantine-free visa program for vaccinated travelers indefinitely and put a ban on the sale of alcohol in restaurants in regions judged at high risk of Covid-19 infections.

Bangkok, Phuket, and six other tourist sites were exempted from strict containment restrictions, but alcohol drinking in restaurants and other commercial places was prohibited after 9 p.m., according to the country’s primary viral task force. At a press conference on Friday, Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the task force, warned that tourists who already have valid visas for the quarantine waiver will be unable to enter the country after January 15.

The new limitations were imposed after the Southeast Asian country recorded 7,526 new infections on Friday, the largest single-day total since November 8 and the fourth consecutive day of growth. Health officials have cautioned that as a result of the New Year’s celebrations and community spread of the omicron strain, the number of patients might quickly climb.

The baht fell to a two-week low on concerns that the visa suspension would affect tourism-related foreign exchange profits, although the benchmark stock index recovered losses when the virus panel ruled out a nationwide lockdown and refused to order any corporate closures.

“The tourist recovery is still unclear, and it isn’t good news for the baht,” said Tim Leelahaphan, a Bangkok-based economist at Standard Chartered Plc, who expects the currency to fall to 34 to the dollar in the first quarter.

Late last year, the tourism-dependent country eased most of its business restrictions and removed a required quarantine requirement for immunized passengers to help rebuild an industry ravaged by the pandemic. The omicron variant, on the other hand, has sabotaged the government’s effort to increase the travel industry and the economy.

“The new limits will have little impact on domestic economic activity.” The tourist industry, which relies on international visitors, will be the hardest hit, according to Rachot Leingchan, an analyst at Bank of Ayudhya Pcl’s research section. “Stimulus measures to encourage domestic demand will continue to be important in the recovery, and exports will remain a bright spot in the economy,” says the report.

Only around 10% of the country’s 72 million citizens have received all three vaccine doses, which are thought to be critical for offering some protection against the omicron strain, while roughly 65% have previously had two doses.

More on the 69 provinces’ limits as of January 9:

  1. Over 500-person gatherings are prohibited.
    2. Over 1,000-person meetings, conferences, and sporting events are prohibited.
    3. Indoor sports venues have a capacity restriction of 50% and outdoor stadiums have a capacity maximum of 75%.
    4. Theme parks and water parks have closed their indoor areas.
    5. Salons, spas, and tattoo parlors will close at midnight.

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