By Lilit Marcus, CNN
Amid the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Thailand has announced some changes to its inbound travel status without quarantine for some visitors.
Thailand reported its first Omicron case on December 6 and decided to change its travel policies soon after.
From December 22 at midnight, no new quarantine exemption requests under the Thailand Pass program will be considered. The government says it is a temporary suspension rather than a permanent ban, but there is no date yet for the suspension to be lifted.
The Thailand Pass has been one of the Southeast Asian country’s major initiatives towards reopening to travel. Tourism is one of Thailand’s largest industries, with nearly 40 million visitors in 2019. Under Thailand Pass conditions, fully vaccinated people hoping to visit a low-risk country may request to bypass quarantine upon arrival. .
The pass, which was part of the “Test & Go program”, started on November 1st.
According to a Thai government press release, 200,000 people have so far applied for the pass, which comes with a QR code for phones allowing them to travel freely around the country and enter restaurants, attractions, shops and other public places.
Travelers who have already applied and have been approved will not be affected by the new regulations. However, if they have not yet entered Thailand, they will now have to take two PCR tests after arriving, including one at a government facility.
Now travelers to Thailand – with the exception of those participating in the Phuket Sandbox program – will be subject to a quarantine of seven to 10 days, depending on their country of origin.
Thailand has also announced that it will expand the national contact tracing program, but has yet to release details on how this will happen.
Those who have applied for the Thailand Pass but have not yet been approved can also continue as normal once they have received a response to their request.
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.
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CNN’s Eric Cheung contributed to this report.