COVID-19 updates: Thailand and Antigua/Barbuda loosen restrictions and CDC relaxes cruise guidelines
Popular vacation destinations are continuing to loosen their COVID-19 protocols as many people are making spring and summer travel plans. While we continue to track the latest changes around the world in our country-by-country guide to coronavirus reopenings, below are the latest changes announced.
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Thailand easing pre-travel testing requirements
Thailand is making a key change to the protocols for its three schemes for entering the country. Visitors entering Thailand under the Test & Go, Sandbox and Alternative Quarantine programs will no longer have to present a pre-travel negative COVID-19 test.
The changes, announced by Thailand’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration, take effect April 1.
It’s important to note that visitors will still have to undergo testing after arriving in the country, but this newest development does eliminate the pre-travel test requirement.
For both the Test & Go and Sandbox schemes, visitors (who must be vaccinated) will have to undergo a PCR test upon arrival to Thailand. Then travelers will be expected to complete an antigen self-test five days after arrival.
Thailand’s Test & Go scheme involves testing and then spending a night in a government-approved hotel while awaiting the result, and then testing again five days later.
The Sandbox program allows visitors to roam freely in certain designated regions for a period of time, before being allowed to travel throughout Thailand. As part of the changes, the time in the "sandbox" will be reduced from seven days to five, beginning April 1.
Related: Planning a trip to Thailand
Thailand is also opening an eighth airport to international arrivals. Beginning April 1, international flights can arrive at Hat Yai International Airport (HDY) in the Songkhla Province.
The relaxed requirements come even as the CDC continues to caution about travel to Thailand. In its guidance on March 7, the CDC placed Thailand at “Level 4” on its travel health notice, which said: “Avoid travel to Thailand. If you must travel to Thailand, make sure you are vaccinated and up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before travel.”
In its announcement about the changes, the Tourism Authority of Thailand said these modifications are taking effect “as the kingdom prepares a four-step phase plan to downgrade the COVID-19 pandemic to an endemic disease.”
Antigua and Barbuda lifting COVID-19 restrictions
There’s been more good news in recent days for travelers hoping to vacation to the Caribbean. The twin island nation of Antigua and Barbuda announced late last week, it will lift testing requirements for fully vaccinated visitors.
Related: Aruba drops all restrictions
The changes, announced Thursday, took effect immediately. Previously, visitors had to present a negative test result regardless of vaccination status.
The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority said this will reduce costs for travelers, and may prove to be a compelling incentive for fully vaccinated visitors to book travel to the country. The organization said it hopes this will help tourism rebound.
Leaders declared the nation “fully open” as part of the announcement.
“Our aim is to continue to ensure travelers have a safe vacation in Antigua and Barbuda, in adherence with the COVID-19 protocols created by the Government to responsibly manage the various stages of the pandemic and maintain the health and safety of the population,” Antigua and Barbuda’s minister of tourism and investment Charles Fernandez said in a statement.
Fully vaccinated passengers who do show potential COVID-19 symptoms upon arrival may be required to submit a test at their own expense.
Changes to some cruise protocols
The CDC also quietly made some changes on Friday to its technical instructions for cruise ships operating within its COVID-19 program.
They are not major, sweeping changes, but could certainly have an impact on your experience while on board or if you were exposed to COVID-19 on your trip.
Cruise ship operators can now resume interactive experiences. According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the change means ship operators can host experiences like galley tours and cooking classes.
Related: Will I need a COVID-19 Vaccine to Cruise?
The other change by the CDC allows passengers who came in contact with someone who has COVID-19 to quarantine in their own cabin, with two caveats: they must be the only person in their cabin and the ship must be within 36 hours of disembarkment.
CLIA called these modifications by the CDC, “welcome changes."
The new guidance comes days after the CDC also lowered its travel health notice for cruise ships from "Level 3: High" to "Level 2: Moderate." This means the CDC advises travelers going on a cruise be up to date on COVID-19 vaccines before the trip, and to avoid travel only if they are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
While some countries, territories and industries are shedding COVID-19 restrictions more quickly than others, there continues to be a noticeable shift toward fewer requirements. As you plan international travel, be sure to keep a close eye on the rules as protocols continue to change daily.