List of ‘Test & Go’ countries to modify

List of ‘Test & Go’ countries to modify

Omicron cases may prompt new curbs

International passengers are seen undergoing country entry procedures upon arrival at Suvarnabhum airport on Monday, as the ‘Test & Go’ program for those entering the kingdom may be scrapped due to the growing number of case of Omicron variants. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

The government is set to revise its ‘Test & Go’ list of countries following the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 as details emerged on Monday of the first recorded local case of the strain in the country.

Gen. Supoj Malaniyom, chief of operations base of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), said the list of low-risk countries eligible for the tourism opening program will be reviewed and screening measures for the Covid-19 will be intensified.

Gen Supoj said the CCSA operations center will identify “high risk” countries before holding a meeting on Friday to decide how much of the “Test & Go” program may need to be revised. If the risk of new infections is considered high, the program may be suspended altogether.

“We are monitoring the spread of Omicron in other countries, not just the UK. The situation is alarming and we need to take the necessary precautions,” he said.

The entry program, which began in November, applies to fully vaccinated visitors from specific countries in a bid to revive the tourism and service industry.

“We need to be more demanding [with the “Test & Go” scheme] and Covid-19 screening of travellers,” Gen. Supoj said.

His remarks came after the Department of Public Health said it would support suspending the program and requiring even fully vaccinated arrivals to spend time in sandbox and state quarantine programs.

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the ministry forwarded the proposal to the CCSA for review after other cases of Omicron were detected.

Dr. Chakkarat Pitayawong-anant, director of epidemiology at the Department of Disease Control, confirmed local transmission of the Omicron variant on Monday.

A 49-year-old Thai woman contracted the virus from her husband, a Colombian pilot who arrived from Nigeria and entered the country via the sandbox program on November 26.

The man, who had received two injections of the AstraZeneca vaccine before entering, tested negative for Covid-19 upon arrival and received a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine on December 1.

However, he spent December 4-6 suffering from fever, fatigue, and a sore throat. His antigen test was negative.

On December 7, he was taken to hospital where the RT-PCR test came back positive.

On December 10, it was confirmed that he and his wife had contracted the variant. His wife’s Omicron infection was later confirmed as the first recorded case in the country.

Dr Chakkarat also supported the temporary reimposition of travel restrictions.

“To slow the spread of Omicron, we need to do three things: slow the rate of arrival, especially under ‘Test & Go’, speed up vaccinations and wear masks,” he said.

Dr Supakij Sirilak, director general of the Department of Medical Sciences, said on Monday that as of December 19 there were 63 confirmed cases of Omicron, but noted that the detection rate had risen to 3% from less than 1 % the previous week.

He also noted that of the arrivals that tested positive for Covid-19, around 25% were found to be infected with the Omicron variant.

Details of the infections came as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced on Monday that the country had reached its goal of administering 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines.

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