Bangkok - Thailand on Wednesday suspended quarantine-free travel pass amid concerns over the new Covid-19 variant Omicron.
As of midnight on December 22, no new applications for quarantine exemptions under the Thailand Pass scheme will be considered. The government said that this is a temporary suspension rather than a permanent ban, but there's no date yet for when the hold might be lifted, reported CNN.
Thailand reported its first Omicron case on December 6 and decided to change its travel policies shortly afterward.
Thailand Pass was one of the southeast Asian country's significant moves toward reopening to travel. Tourism is one of Thailand's biggest industries, with nearly 40 million visitors in 2019, reported CNN.
Under the conditions of the Thailand Pass, fully vaccinated people hoping to visit from a low-risk country could apply to bypass quarantine on arrival.
The pass, which was under the "Test & Go program," kicked off on November 1.
According to a Thai government news release, 200 000 people have so far applied for the pass, which comes with a phone QR code enabling them to travel freely around the country and enter restaurants, attractions, shops and other public places, reported CNN.
Travellers who have already applied and been approved won't be affected by the new regulations. However, if they haven't yet entered Thailand they will now be required to take two PCR tests after arriving, one of which will be at a government facility.
Now, travellers to Thailand - except those participating in the Phuket Sandbox program - will be subject to a quarantine of seven to 10 days, depending on their country of origin, reported CNN.
Thailand has also announced it will expand the nationwide contact tracing program, but it hasn't yet shared specifics on how that will happen.
Those who have applied for the Thailand Pass but have not yet gotten approved can also continue on as normal once they get a response to their application.
The Omicron variant was first identified by scientists in South Africa in November. It is now the dominant strain of new infections in the United States.