Govt allays concerns over Chinese return
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Govt allays concerns over Chinese return

Tourists visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace in February 2019. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Tourists visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace in February 2019. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gave assurances Thailand is ready to handle the return of travel and tourists from China as concern grows over imported Covid cases following China's reopening of its borders on Sunday.

A rise in Covid-19 caseloads came after Beijing lifted its tough virus containment measures last month, with borders to reopen on Jan 8. Beijing also announced an end to mandatory quarantines on arrival, prompting Chinese people to plan trips overseas.

Gen Prayut said on Tuesday that measures are now in place to ensure the return of visitors from China does not have any impact on public health.

"Our measures are first-rate. We have to be confident in them. Tourism is a major source of income for the country.

"The government already managed to tackle and contain the pandemic. Our experience is an important asset, and we serve as a model [in dealing with Covid] for several countries," Gen Prayut said.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that officials from the Public Health Ministry, the Tourism and Sports Ministry and the Transport Ministry would meet tomorrow to discuss what measures to adopt for visitors from China while ensuring the health and safety of Thai people.

However, a meeting on Dec 30 of an academic committee under the Communicable Disease Act agreed that there was no need to engage in potentially discriminatory practices against travellers from China, said Mr Anutin, who is also a deputy PM.

Asked about China's reopening on Sunday, Mr Anutin said that he did not expect a sudden influx as the Chinese government is still imposing its own travel conditions, including RT-PCR tests for both inbound and outbound travellers.

Although unwilling to give any guarantees, Mr Anutin remained bullish over the country's readiness.

"But I can say for certain that there will be no lockdowns, and people who are fully vaccinated will not suffer severe symptoms or die.

"I can guarantee that there are sufficient medical personnel and supplies," Mr Anutin said.

On Dec 30, the academic committee stressed the necessity for a non-discriminatory screening protocol.

The committee agreed that screening at airports for arrivals from China wouldn't be required for the time being. However, the committee does expect arrivals to show proof of vaccination and a suitable insurance policy.

Dr Tares Krassanairawiwong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, previously said about five million visitors from China are expected this year, while travel to China from Thailand will also increase.

Covid-19 safety measures will be considered in proportion to the virus' prevalence in China, according to the department chief.

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