Thailand reinstates mandatory COVID-19 quarantine over Omicron concerns

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A waitress waits for customer at a restaurant in Khaosan Road, one of the favourite tourist spots, as Thailand bans entry from eight African countries over the coronavirus Omicron variant, in Bangkok, Thailand, November 30, 2021. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa

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Dec 21 (Reuters) - Thailand will reinstate its mandatory COVID-19 quarantine for foreign visitors and scrap a quarantine waiver from Tuesday due to concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The decision to halt Thailand's "Test and Go" waiver means visitors will have to undergo hotel quarantine, which ranges between 7 to 10 days.

Meanwhile, a so-called "sandbox" programme, which requires visitors to remain in a specific location but allows them free movement outside of their accommodation, will also be suspended in all places except for the tourist resort island of Phuket.

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"After Dec. 21, there will be no new registrations for 'Test and Go', only quarantine or Phuket sandbox," said deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhanadirek.

The announcement came a day after Thailand reported the first case of local transmission of the Omicron variant. read more

It also came weeks after Thailand reopened to foreign visitors in November, ending nearly 18 months of strict entry policies that contributed to a collapse in tourism, a key industry and economic driver that drew 40 million visitors in 2019.

About 200,000 visitors who had previously registered for the quarantine waiver and sandbox programme will still be eligible, said government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.

"This is not to shut off tourists but to temporarily suspend arrivals," he said.

The decision will be reviewed on Jan. 4, he added.

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Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Writing by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Ed Davies

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