CCSA eyes border reopening
Southern MPs lobby to open checkpoints
The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)'s forward command dealing with Covid-19 in the deep South will this week consider whether to reopen the Thai-Malaysian border as proposed by MPs from the southern region.
Deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said on Sunday the CCSA previously agreed in principle with the proposal and instructed its forward command to study the details.
However, after Malaysia detected its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant in a foreign student who was quarantined after arrival from South Africa, the forward command is now monitoring the situation in the neighbouring country closely, she said.
"The forward command will discuss the border reopening proposal and present the matter to the CCSA for consideration at a meeting expected next Monday," Ms Rachada said.
The forward command is formally known as the centre for the integration of the resolution of Covid-19 in southern border provinces.
Ms Rachada said the government intended to reopen the Thai-Malaysian border and the CCSA earlier met on Nov 26 to assess the Covid-19 situation in five southern provinces of Songkhla, Satun, Narathiwat, Yala and Pattani, with plans to reopen border checkpoints on Dec 16.
Border checkpoints that were initially planned for reopening include Sa Dao border checkpoint in Songkhla, Sungai Kolok checkpoint in Narathiwat, Betong checkpoint in Yala and Wang Prachan checkpoint in Satun, she said.
"However, the CCSA will reach a conclusion on the matter at the meeting next Monday,'' she said, adding the Foreign Ministry has informed Malaysian authorities of the move.
The reopening of the border is expected to revive local tourism and boost economic growth in the southern region, she added.
Ms Rachada also said that a Public Health Ministry inspector-general in charge of Songkhla, Satun, Trang, Phatthalung, Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat has confirmed that the Omicron strain has not been detected in the southern border provinces.
"The public has been urged not to panic,'' she said.
Pol Maj Gen Surin Palare, a Democrat Party MP for Songkhla, is among MPs who have called for the Thai-Malaysian border to be reopened.
He said the border has been closed for almost two years now as a result of Covid-19, affecting Thai workers who have been stranded in Malaysia.
This has led to the illegal entry problem and the further spread of Covid-19.
"Reopening the border will help ease the problem and bring back tourists from Malaysia and resuscitate the local economy at the same time,'' Pol Maj Gen Surin said.
Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn said that there is no sign of tourist arrivals to Thailand slowing down despite the emergence of the Omicron variant.
There have been no reports of foreign tourists cancelling their trips to Thailand so far, he said.
"The new variant has not affected travel sentiment,'' Mr Yuthasak said.
The TAT has set a target of attracting about 600,000 foreign tourists during the last two months of this year, he said.
Meanwhile, Thailand logged 27 new Covid-related fatalities and 4,704 new coronavirus cases during the previous 24 hours, the Public Health Ministry announced on Sunday. The new caseload dipped back below 5,000 after hitting 5,896 on Saturday.
The CCSA said 6,149 Covid-19 patients were discharged from hospitals after recovering from the coronavirus.
The CCSA reported that Bangkok registered 781 new transmissions, leading other provinces in the country.
Five southern provinces were among the 10 most infected provinces.