Bosses raise alarm over Covid costs

Bosses raise alarm over Covid costs

Govt evades paying quarantine fees

Health volunteers take part in an activity to raise awareness about Covid-19 among migrant labourers in Muang district in Samut Sakhon province in April. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)
Health volunteers take part in an activity to raise awareness about Covid-19 among migrant labourers in Muang district in Samut Sakhon province in April. (Photo by Varuth Hirunyatheb)

An employers group has cried foul over what it calls the steep costs for quarantining returning migrant workers, saying this places too much strain on employers already struggling from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The quarantine expenses, estimated by the Department of Employment (DOE) and approved in principle by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), range from 13,200 baht to 19,300 baht per worker, according to the CCSA.

The proposed quarantine price tags, however, are subject to endorsement by the cabinet.

The centre has given the go-ahead to bring back workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

The migrant workers are divided into two groups, the first of which hold valid work permits, passports and re-entry visas. They returned to their countries of origin to escape the Covid-19 pandemic and are now seeking to re-enter Thailand to resume work.

The second group are those who have never worked in Thailand before and are seeking employment here. They also hold documentary proof that employers have offered them jobs in Thailand.

Quarantine and health check procedures will be different for the two groups, according to DOE director-general, Suchart Pornchaiwisetkul.

He said there are 69,235 workers in the first group and 42,168 in the latter.

Both groups must possess travel documents and a fit-to-travel certificate. However, those in the re-entry group will be checked at the border for any Covid-19 infection by the Public Health Ministry and taken to alternative local quarantine (ALQ) facilities located in the respective provinces they arrive in. They will spend 14 days in quarantine.

For the first-time job seekers, the mandatory 14-day quarantine at ALQ facilities also applies. However, at the point of entry they will be tested for six dangerous diseases including Covid-19 and they must buy health insurance for at least two years if they do not wish to subscribe to the Social Security Fund.

The costs of quarantine will be borne by the employers.

Nilubon Pongpayom, co-founder of the Group of Entrepreneurs with Foreign Workers (GEFW), said employers do not agree with the high tab for quarantines they will be asked to pick up.

She added the government also passes on expenses associated with the migrant workers' health checks to the companies, which is unfair and puts too much of a burden on them.

The GEFW urged the government to at least absorb the cost of health checks as the migrant workers play a big part in driving the economy.

Ms Nilubon added the government should consider cheaper forms of quarantine.

"The employers are willing to cooperate with the authorities to prevent a second wave of infection. But they shouldn't just be handed the price list and told to pay," she said.

She added not every employer was a deep-pocket owner of large factories. Most of them are medium-sized and small companies, 70% of which are facing severe liquidity crunch.

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