Thailand to lower COVID-19 alert, ease curbs as infections slow

Healthcare workers in PPE take swab samples from people for a rapid antigen test, in Bangkok
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BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand will lower its COVID-19 alert level and is considering easing more restrictions to boost its economy, its health minister said on Tuesday, in response to a slower infection rate.

Among measures being considered are establishing more "sandbox" areas for tourists, who can skip quarantine if they stay in specified areas for seven days and undergo two COVID-19 tests.

Nightclubs, pubs and bars will remained closed for now, however, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters, adding the COVID-19 alert level will be lowered to 3, from 4, on the government's 5-level system.

New Sandbox areas could include Chiang Mai, Chonburi, Khon Kaen and Samut Prakan provinces, he said.

The scheme, a calibrated move to rebuild Thailand's decimated tourism sector, currently operates in Phuket, Phang Nga, Krabi and Koh Samui.

Anutin on Monday said he would propose the return of a 'Test and Go' scheme that allows free movement to tourists who pass one COVID-19 test on arrival.

Thailand has recorded 2.3 million cases of COVID-19 and almost 22,000 deaths overall. Nearly two-thirds of its residents are vaccinated and 13.5% have received boosters.

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Martin Petty)

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