Shorter quarantine if tourist test succeeds
A seven-day quarantine for foreign tourists can be put into effect in November if the first batch of inbound tourists in October is clear of coronavirus infections, says the Tourism and Sports Ministry.
After next Tuesday's cabinet meeting, the government will announce more details of the special tourist visa (STV) that will allow long-stay visitors, the first international arrivals in almost six months, to enter the country by Oct 1, said Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn.
If the first two groups of 300 foreigners complete the 14-day quarantine on Oct 15 and Oct 21 without a positive case, then the ministry plans to propose an increase in the number of tourists per week by Nov 1.
"Only 300 tourists per week will not be enough to fill up the whole supply chain and help operators," Mr Phiphat said. "However, the figure has to comply with the capacity of the healthcare workforce from the Public Health Ministry to prepare swab tests."
For instance, the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office can provide swab testing services of up to 1,000 tests per day.
The ministry has spoken with private hospitals about providing more health personnel to support the virus testing process at airports, or allowing groups of tourists to get the test at alternative state quarantine facilities instead to disperse the flow of tourists at the terminal.
If the tourism plan runs smoothly, the ministry will consider shortening the quarantine period to seven days in mid-November, Mr Phiphat said.
He said tourists will still have to complete two swab tests, a strip test and a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
"In the event there are five positive cases from 300 tourists, the plan to welcome foreigners has to move forward anyway," Mr Phiphat said. "But we will set up new alternative plans to cope with the situation."
Meanwhile, the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) summarised the tourism situation to Mr Phiphat after representatives visited Chiang Mai, Phuket, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Udon Thani and Rayong to hear about local operators' problems and seek solutions.
TCT president Chairat Trirattanajarasporn said the government must urgently deliver help to operators so they can bounce back stronger from the crisis.
The council estimates that when global tourism returns to normal, international arrivals to Thailand will hit 60 million, contributing 25% of GDP by 2023.