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Updates about Test & Go and Covid Extension

Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
This is a special dispatch with the latest news about the Consular Department’s relaunch of Test & Go on Tuesday 1st February at 9:00 a.m. and the new Immigration rules for the special 60-day Covid extension that started on 26th January.

Relaunch of Test & Go on 1st February
It has been a long time coming, but the Consular Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that they will relaunch the Test & Go scheme with a few amendments. The main one being that the list of so-called “safe countries” has been dropped and the scheme is now open to everyone. However, you must be fully vaccinated. If you are not, then the quarantine hotel option is still available.
Some people asked me why the Sandbox scheme is still running if Test & Go is open to people coming from all countries. The short answer to that is that it will be used as the back-up plan in case of a major outbreak and Test & Go is suspended again. Yes, you heard right. If you are willing to travel during a global pandemic, then you will need to accept the conditions that some things are subject to unexpected and sudden change.
A couple of days ago, the Consular Department released the above infographic in English and Thai with the following information. As it is too small for you to read, here are the links to download the files:
  • Eligible countries/ territories
  • Vaccination
  • Insurance with minimum coverage of 50,000 USD for medical expenses
  • Fully paid SHA Extra+ / AQ hotel reservation confirmation for day 1 and day 5
  1.  Register on Thailand Pass via (you are advised to register at least 7 days before your departure date)
  2. Get a COVID-19 test
  3. Do 1st RT-PCR test - Day of arrival (day 1)
  4. Do 2nd RT-PCR test - 5th Day of arrival (day 5)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently had a press briefing about the relaunch of the Test & Go scheme and the additional Sandbox areas. The following are the notes from that briefing:
  • From the outcomes of the CCSA General Meeting on 20 January 2022, there are important updates regarding measures for entering the country.
  • Registration for Test and Go will resume on 1 February 2022. Some adjustment in details have been made as follows;
  • Travellers from all countries/areas will be eligible to apply for this scheme.
  • Two RT-PCR tests will be required. One on the first day of arrival and the second on Day 5 of arrival.
  • Travellers must prepare documents for entering the countries such as proof of hotel (SHA Extra Plus/AQ/OQ/AHQ) booking with a confirmed payment for Day 1 and Day 5 including a pre-payment of 2 RT-PCR tests.
  • Hotel that travellers choose for your first and second test do not have to be the same hotel or even in the same province, as long as they are SHA Extra Plus/AQ/OQ/AHQ approved.
  • In case that travellers have duration of stay in Thailand less than 5 days, they can show the outbound air ticket instead of hotel booking and the confirmation of 2nd RT-PCR test.
  • From 1 February, the sandbox areas will be expanded to include areas in Chonburi province (only for specific districts and areas including Pattaya City) and Trat province (Koh Chang Island). Travellers who wish to visit these areas through the sandbox scheme will be able to register in the Thailand Pass system.
  • Travellers will now also be able to travel between Phuket, Krabi, Pang Nga, Surat Thani (Koh Samui, Koh Pa Ngan, Koh Tao) within the 7 days. The hotel booking confirmation including a pre-payment of two RT-PCR tests will be required. Travellers can make no more than 3 hotel transfers during the 7 days.
  • Thai authorities continue to monitor and assess the situation closely. If the Covid-19 situation becomes more severe, the measures will be constantly adjusted. The Ministry will keep you updated.
Today, I sent out an urgent warning about emails that were being sent out pretending to be from Thailand Pass. It is not known yet whether their mail server was hacked, or they got hold of email addresses from another source. But the emails said that there was a problem with the recipient’s application and that they needed to download a document. I immediately informed the Consular Department. Their IT team quickly checked their system and then they put out this urgent message on the Thailand Pass website:
“Applicants on Thailand Pass who received the following email, DO NOT scan the QR Code or follow the instructions described. The email does not come from Thailand Pass, and could compromise the security and privacy of your personal information.”
They told me that email addresses may have been collected when people entered their personal information on a website that is pretending to be official. They also added that they have received complaints from some people who had paid a lot of money to get the Thailand Pass and they wanted their money back. If you apply for the pass at the official website, there is no fee. The Thailand Pass is 100% free. There is nothing wrong with paying an agent to help you, but please understand that it is possible to do it yourself for free.
While I am at it, the website is not the official website of the Consular Department. Like the previous example, they are just trying to make money from you. I have had so many people say to me that they thought these websites were official sites. The same goes for the SHA+ hotel sites. Many are just trying to make money from you. Sometimes, even government agencies have linked to these fake sites as they are so convincing.
As you can imagine, I get many questions every day. Sometimes, too many to answer as I have a day job and sometimes I am busy in the evenings. So, I put together this FAQ that you might find useful.
Q: What is the difference between Test & Go and Sandbox?
A: With Test & Go, you’re free to go anywhere you like in Thailand once you have passed your 1st test. But you have to stay in a SHA++ hotel with a partner hospital on Day 5 while you wait for results of the 2nd test.
Q: What is the point of the Sandbox when Test & Go will now be open to people from all countries?
A: You must understand that the global pandemic is ongoing, and things can change. If there is a major outbreak, they could suspend Test & Go again and Sandbox will be the backup plan.
Q: I have already applied for a Thailand Pass for the Sandbox. Can I switch to Test & Go?
A: Yes, but you have to apply for a new Thailand Pass when registration re-opens on 1st February. Although some people got the QR Code straight away, it can take up to 7 days.
Q: I have a home in Thailand, do I really need to book a SHA++ hotel for the 2nd test?
A: Yes, there are no exceptions to this. The 2nd hotel can be anywhere, but it must have a partner hospital and you must wait in the room for the results like you did for the first test.
Q: I applied for Test & Go before the 22 December deadline and I have a Thailand Pass. Do I need to book a SHA++ hotel for the 2nd test?
A: You are an exception as you can do at a government designated facility for free. So far, they are not saying you must book a hotel.
Q: I will only be staying in Thailand for a few days. If I come in using Test & Go, must I stay until I do the 2nd test?
A: The RT-PCR tests are on Day 0-1 and Day 5-6. If you have a pre-booked return flight before Day 5, then you don’t need to do, or even pay for, the 2nd test.
Q: Why do we have to book SHA++/AQ/OQ/AHQ accommodation for the 2nd test?
A: There have been many cases of travellers not waiting for their test results. It will be more efficient and quicker if people stayed in hotels that have a partner hospital that does the test.
In addition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, another good source of information is TAT Newsroom which is the official news channel for the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
For breaking news about what is happening in Thailand, Twitter is the best source as the short snippets are sent to you as and when they are posted. With Facebook, they don’t always show you all the posts of a page you follow and sometimes they show you old news. Twitter shows the news in the correct order. You can follow me on these two accounts for free:
News about 60-Day Covid Extension of Stay
The other big news for this month is that the deadline to apply for the covid extension has been extended to 25th March. Which at first seemed to be good news for people who are stuck here in Thailand due to the Covid pandemic. However, reading the small print, it transpired that this time there were some important exceptions.
So far, there has been no official announcement by the Immigration Bureau on their website or Facebook. Certainly not in English. The following are my own notes from reading the leaked internal letter and my conversation with senior Immigration officers. This is what I then posted on Twitter and Facebook.
The Immigration Bureau has approved an extension of time for visa extensions for COVID-19 reasons until 25th March 2022, under the following conditions:
Persons entering the Kingdom with VISA ON ARRIVAL (VOA) cannot extend their visa for this reason
Persons entering the Kingdom with a TOURIST VISA can extend a tourist visa for an additional 30 days and then they can submit a reason to stay for COVID-19.
Persons entering the Kingdom temporarily with a NON-IMMIGRANT VISA, cannot be extended for reason of COVID-19
In the case of tourists already in the country. At the end of the 60-day period for permission to stay in the Kingdom, this time they must leave the country. Or if there is a necessity to stay, there are able to submit an application to stay in accordance with the laws, regulations, and rules set forth.
It is still early days, but people on VOA and all Non Immigrant visas are already reporting that they have been refused a covid extension and have been told to leave the country within 7 days. There may be some exceptions allowed, but I am told by Immigration that it’s up to the discretion of the officer.
It would seem that Immigration officers are only giving the 60-day covid extensions to tourists. For example, those who have a Tourist Visa or who came in on a free visa exemption. In both cases you must extend for 30 days before applying for the covid stamp. But no guarantees. You have to give a good reason. For example, if you cannot fly home. Again, this is up to the discretion of the Immigration officer. So, my advice is to have a Plan B.
A Final Note
Whenever possible, I try to get my information from the source. This means either press briefings in the Thai language which I translate or from my sources inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Immigration Bureau, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand. I then send this out on my social media accounts. I have no paid affiliation or personal agenda. I don’t gain anything if tourists come back to Thailand or not.
I am not always correct, but I always try to do my best to help people to the extent of my ability. I am not your regular blogger or influencer. (A word, by the way I hate.) I am not motivated by fame or fortune. I refuse to do interviews and none of my websites have advertising or sponsored posts. My late parents were life-long volunteers who helped others. All I am doing is following in their footsteps. But I have a day job, and I like travelling in my free time, and so please forgive me when I am unable to answer personal inquiries. Thanks for your understanding.
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Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand @richardbarrow

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Samut Prakan, Thailand