Contagion tests eyed for passengers

Contagion tests eyed for passengers

Affected flights to land at small airports

Passengers arriving from China stand in a long queue as they wait to walk through a thermal scanner at Don Mueang Airport late in January. (File photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Passengers arriving from China stand in a long queue as they wait to walk through a thermal scanner at Don Mueang Airport late in January. (File photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Aviation agencies are planning to step up the screening of passengers from countries affected by Covid-19 and are assigning a small airport to specifically handle these flights.

Wg Cdr Suthirawat Suwanawat, general manager of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport, said he has raised the issue with Chula Sukmanop, director-general of the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT).

According to him, aircraft from virus-affected countries will be required to land at small airports like U-Tapao in Rayong province, where passengers can undergo screening.

Passengers with suspected symptoms will be separated and put under quarantine in a similar process to the 138 Thais who returned from Wuhan, China, he said.

"The necessity to have a specific airport handle flights from Covid-19 affected countries will also make it easier for illegal Thai workers in South Korea who want to return," Wg Cdr Suthirawat said.

He was referring to the South Korean government's move to give illegal migrant workers or overstaying foreigners until June to voluntarily return home.

Cherdkiat Atthakor, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said on Tuesday that since the end of last year to March 1, more than 5,000 Thais have reported to Korean immigration offices and expressed their intention to return.

Meanwhile, the Thais who returned from Wuhan on Feb 4 were all quarantined at a naval base in Chon Buri's Sattahip for 14 days and those suspected of having Covid-19 were sent to a nearby hospital.

Wg Cdr Suthirawat said there is concern that Thailand will have to bear the cost of accommodating passengers who come from virus-affected countries but are denied entry at their next destination. He said these passengers will have to be accommodated for 14 days in quarantine pending test results.

Mr Chula said that a possible solution may be to deny entry to aircraft carrying passengers from virus-affected countries who want to change planes in Thailand.

This measure requires a ministerial announcement from the Public Health Ministry, so the CAAT can inform airlines that such flights will not be permitted to land in Thailand, Mr Chula said.

Prime Minister's Office Minister Tewan Liptapallop said he has urged all airlines to find ways to help people who have already booked flights and might have to cancel due to outbreaks in countries they are going to.

It was proposed that people who bought air tickets before Feb 21 will get a full refund, while those who bought them after Feb 21 can postpone their flights until Dec 15, he said.

Group tours which cancel flights 30 days before their scheduled trips will get a full refund, and 50% back if they cancel 15 days beforehand, Mr Tewan said, though he did not confirm if any airlines have agreed to the proposal.

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