More talks urged on travel bubbles
Slack standards in other countries a risk
The country is in no rush to open up travel bubbles as more thought is needed into putting the concept into practice, said the head of security for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
The bubbles, where travel is permitted between any two countries where the Covid-19 pandemic has been brought under control, needs more thought before overseas visitors are allowed back in, said Defence Forces chief Pornpipat Benyasri, the top supervisor of CCSA security.
He said issues, which must be addressed before travel bubbles are given a go-ahead without the mandatory 14-day quarantine, include public health regulations and pandemic-related legal requirements of the countries involved.
"There's no rush [to engage in the travel bubbles]. The priority is creating and maintaining health safety," Gen Pornpipat said.
He was referring to Thailand's ability to contain the outbreak as a result of the government's decision to keep borders closed, separating potential Covid-19 carriers from the rest of the population and deploying rigorous quarantine procedures.
A CCSA working group looking into the easing of Covid-19 restrictions is considering the gradual re-opening of borders to foreign visitors.
The group was told some foreign nationals have been granted permission to re-enter Thailand since the end of April. They are business people holding a work permit, teachers and students, skilled workers and technicians repairing machines in large industries.
They were quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in alternative state quarantine facilities for which they paid for out of their own pockets.
The group was also told Thai citizens returning from overseas have also been placed under state quarantine. Several were confirmed to be the source of imported infections.
After the pandemic situation is resolved, overseas tourists will be permitted to return in small groups from countries with travel bubble agreements. They can travel only to select destinations for the sake of effective public health surveillance, a source said.
The CCSA's working group asked the Tourism Authority of Thailand to study the possible downsides of the travel bubbles, including a new wave of Covid-19 triggered by the border reopening and the economic costs which the government must foot if the outbreak recurs.
The working group also voiced caution over "delicate" issues such as travel bubble partner countries negotiating compromises on travel conditions which increases the risk of a new outbreak. Also, local communities might resist the reopening under travel bubble agreements of some tourist destinations located close to them.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health Service Support said medical tourism could be incorporated in the terms of bubble arrangements. Medical tourism was good for the economy though details should be spelt out in travel bubble agreements, said Tharet Krassanairawiwong, of the department.