Govt eyes medical tourism trips

Govt eyes medical tourism trips

'Travel bubbles' tipped for September start

The government is giving the green light to local tour operators to tap foreign medical and wellness tourists from next month while the "travel bubbles" tourism scheme is tipped to start in September, a senior spokesman said yesterday.

Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), said medical and wellness tourists would be welcomed from this month onward.

"After completing required quarantine, tours can be arranged for them to visit anywhere in Thailand," Dr Taweesilp told the media in a press briefing yesterday.

This is intended to attract wealthy tourists to help boost the economy through the medical and wellness programme, Dr Taweesilp said.

About 1,700 foreigners from 17 countries had already registered for admission to Thailand for medical and wellness services. They would have to arrive by air to ensure effective disease control, Dr Taweesilp said.

This would coincide with the first arrivals of visitors booked to stay full-time at villas, resorts and the like that provide full services, so they do not venture outside of them, he said.

Dr Taweesilp said these 1,700 foreign medical and wellness tourists are mandated to complete a 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Thailand.

Permitted to enter are those seeking plastic and cosmetic surgery and infertility treatment.

Dr Taweesilp insisted Covid-19 patients would not be allowed to enter the country.

The visitors must have doctor appointment documents, certificates of entry issued by Thai embassies, and must have a medical test before their arrival.

Upon arrival, the visitors will be tested again. They will have to seek treatment at hospitals arranged by the government. Each will be allowed to bring no more than three attendants with them.

The government was arranging for public and private hospitals to cater for medical and wellness visitors. Sixty-two private hospitals had applied to participate, he said.

After treatment, they will be placed in quarantine for 14 days at those hospitals before being discharged, Dr Taweesilp said.

If they were properly handled during their 14-day quarantine-treatment at hospitals, they could then go anywhere in the country, starting from next month.

Health resources would be readied to cope with situations such as visitors bringing in Covid-19 infection, Dr Taweesilp said.

He said the government also planned to welcome specific groups of tourists through the so called "travel bubble" arrangements with countries that have controlled the novel coronavirus disease from September.

The government has come up with a plan to open travel bubbles with several countries, including China and Japan and South Korea.

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said yesterday that the full-member meeting of the CCSA will meet next week to prepare action plans for dealing with the arrival of 1,700 medical and wellness tourists. He stressed that approval would be on a case-by-case basis.

In terms of the travel bubble arrangement, Mr Anutin insisted deals would be made with countries that have brought Covid-19 under control and definitely not those with high infection rates.

National Security Council secretary-general Gen Somsak Roongsita, who heads the committee assigned to consider the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, told the media that discussions on the travel bubbles would start next week.

Addressing the fifth phase of relaxation of Covid-19 curbs starting on Wednesday, Gen Somsak said authorities will randomly inspect night entertainment venues and close down any violators.

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