The Ministry of Public Health has proposed a new type of Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) that will allow short-term visitors to travel to designated areas during their 14-quarantine period in some selected provinces.
Director-general of the Health Service Support Department, Thares Krassanairawiwong, said a new type of ASQ was being discussed for short-term visitors in the provinces ready to reopen.
This type of ASQ would allow tourists to travel to designated areas during the 14-day quarantine period instead of confining themselves to hotel premises, the doctor said.
The new ASQ will come with terms and conditions to be discussed between government units and entrepreneurs.
People in each of the provinces must be informed of the new ASQ and approve of it, the official said.
He stressed the new ASQ must be based on safety and economic viability.
Foreign visitors must accept travel routes set by the provinces and must not veer off course. Most importantly, they must come from countries with low Covid-19 risk and no local infections for three months, Dr Thares said.
Tourists must test negative for the virus in 72 hours prior to departure and stay in home quarantine for 14 days before leaving their country. They must also book flights and accommodation through travel agents.
The provinces which are ready to reopen must make sure that routes for foreign visitors will not be used by local residents. Recommended activities for tourists include wellness tourism activities such as massage, spa and gastronomic tours.
Hotels where they can stay must be hotels with SHA (Safety and Health Administration) standards, the doctor said.
The areas where foreign tourists can visit will be fixed, he said.
They are required to use tracking devices with representatives of agencies responding to Covid-19 travelling with them at all times.
The doctor added that provinces eligible for the new type of ASQ must have adequate public health systems and hospitals with the capacity to treat Covid-19 patients. The hospitals must also be equipped with negative pressure rooms and laboratories.
Many provinces, most of which are tourism provinces, have shown an interest in offering the new type of ASQ such as Chon Buri, Buri Ram, Rayong, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket and Surat Thani, said the doctor.
Chon Buri seems most ready for the new type of ASQ, judging from local entrepreneurs' enthusiasm and the province's experience in managing state quarantine facilities, according to the doctor.
"The new type of ASQ is another way to get foreign tourists to help stimulate the economy," he said.
At present, Thailand has 55 SQ facilities, 84 ASQ and Alternative Local State Quarantine facilities and 154 Alternative Hospital Quarantine facilities for foreign patients and their caregivers.
They are required to be quarantined during treatment in Thailand for at least 14 days and have three Covid-19 tests.
"We have prepared 2,000 hospital rooms and 13,009 hotel rooms to accommodate foreign visitors on leisure and business trips.
"We are confident that international travellers will be able to visit Thailand from Oct 15 onwards. We are ready to take them," the director-general said.
Over 1,000 foreign patients of other diseases and caregivers have entered Thailand by land, water and air since the government started to lift restrictions, generating over 200 million baht for the country, he said.
Thailand is in the process of preparing Wellness Quarantine facilities, such as spas and massage parlours, for medical tourists such as the elderly from other countries.
The government launched a Special Tourist Visa (STV) programme on Oct 1.
Holders of this special visa will be allowed to first stay in the country for 90 days and then renew the visa twice for 90 days each time.
Cabinet members will have a mobile cabinet meeting on Nov 2-3 in Phuket to listen to the views of residents and business operators on how to help rebuild Phuket, which was badly affected by the pandemic.