Thailand suspends quarantine-free visas to fight Omicron spread

Thailand indefinitely suspended a quarantine-free visa program for vaccinated visitors and ordered a ban on the sale of alcohol at restaurants in areas deemed at high risk of Covid infections to curb the spread of the omicron variant.

The nation’s main virus task force spared Bangkok, Phuket and six other tourist destinations from harsh containment measures but banned alcohol consumption at restaurants and other commercial establishments after 9 p.m. Overseas visitors already holding valid visas for the quarantine waiver can’t enter the country after Jan. 15, Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the task force, said at a briefing on January 07.

The fresh restrictions came after the Southeast Asian nation reported 7,526 new infections on January 07, the highest single-day tally since Nov. 8, and a fourth straight day of increase. Health officials have warned that cases may rise rapidly following the New Year celebrations and community spread of the omicron strain.

The baht extended losses to a two-week low on concern the visa suspension will hurt foreign exchange earnings from tourism, while the benchmark stock index erased losses after the virus panel ruled out a national lockdown and didn’t order any closure of businesses.

The tourism-reliant nation had relaxed most of its restrictions on businesses and lifted a mandatory quarantine requirement for immunized travellers late last year to revive an economy battered by the pandemic. But the omicron variant has derailed the government’s plan to boost the travel sector and the economy. (Source HT)

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