Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has reiterated that any new Covid-related measures adopted in Thailand will not discriminate against travellers from any country, including China.
He made the comment ahead of a meeting scheduled for Thursday at Government House, where authorities are expected to finalise measures that would apply to visitors arriving from Covid-plagued China and from other countries.
“Relevant officials agree to give the same treatment to visitors from all countries and health measures will not discriminate against visitors from any particular country,” Mr Anutin said on Wednesday.
The Thai health system, he said, was ready to cope with emergency situations as only 5.2% of hospital beds were now occupied by Covid-19 patients. Authorities have prepared response measures for any worsening disease situation or mutation, he added.
Among the possible measures that authorities might adopt on Thursday could be a requirement for visitors to show proof of at least two doses of Covid-19 vaccines as well as health insurance to cover possible health expenses. If they have a respiratory illness, they should postpone their visits until they make a full recovery.
During their stay in the country, visitors will be advised to protect themselves by wearing face masks in public places and on public vehicles, regularly washing hands, conducting antigen tests if they have any respiratory symptoms, and going to hospital if they develop worse symptoms.
If their destination countries after their stay in Thailand require prior disease screening, visitors will be advised to stay at hotels with disease control standards and Covid-19 test services.
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Mr Anutin expects about 300,000 Chinese visitors to arrive in the first quarter of this year, representing about five percent of all visitors for the period. Prior to the pandemic, Chinese arrivals accounted for more than one-quarter of the country’s 40 million foreign tourists.
“There will be 60,000 (Chinese) visitors in January, 90,000 in February and 150,000 in March,” said the minister. “Their number will rise gradually because (currently) there are limited flights, it will take time to seek passports and visas and the Chinese government has not allowed tour firms to organise outbound groups of tourists yet.”
In the short term, visitors from China will be “independent travellers and upscale travellers with purchasing power”, he added.
Mr Anutin also said the local Covid situation was improving. In the week from Dec 25 to 31, there were 2,111 hospital inpatients, including 529 with lung inflammation and 352 people dependent on ventilators, and 75 fatalities related to the disease, he said.
Most of the inpatients were from groups of vulnerable people who were never vaccinated or had had insufficient doses of vaccines, he added.