Govt does U-turn on jab rules
published : 10 Jan 2023 at 04:00
newspaper section: News
writer: Poramet Tangsathaporn
The government yesterday morning backtracked on its decision to reintroduce the requirement for foreign arrivals to show a Covid vaccine certificate to reduce confusion and inconvenience, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
The Public Health Minister explained the move to the media at Suvarnabhumi airport where he and the transport, tourism and sports ministers welcomed the first 269 Chinese arrivals following Beijing's decision to reopen its borders.
The requirement for a vaccine certificate was brought back last week as a measure to mitigate against a resumption of the Covid pandemic as Chinese tourists began packing their suitcases in the days following their government's relaxation of travel rules. However, the enforcement was widely opposed by tourism business associations who said they would lose many customers, especially from Europe, due to the requirement.
Mr Anutin said the latest protocol would be even-handed, singling out no one nation for additional screening.
"We will use the same measures with tourists from all over the world. There will be no segregation unless it becomes necessary. I would like to confirm that the protocol we set up is appropriate and emphasises health and safety throughout tourists' journeys," he said.
A total of 15 flights from China touched down yesterday, carrying 3,465 Chinese tourists, with Mr Anutin predicting that Thailand would welcome up to 5 million Chinese tourists this year.
"The number of tourists will keep growing. It is a good signal for the country's economy as the expansion of the tourism industry means creating more jobs to drive our economy forward," he said.
The health minister also summarised expert sentiment that as most Thais are now fully vaccinated along, theoretically, with all arrivals, risks remain low.
"I have been informed by the Disease Control Department director-general that academics agree there are many people who have received complete doses of vaccine both in Thailand and in other countries, including China, in which they are immune to a certain degree. Requiring every tourist to show the vaccine certificate will not facilitate the arrival process. Showing a certificate on arrival is no longer a necessary measure," said.
Mr Anutin said that all related agencies and officials have been made aware of the revised Notice to Airman (Notam).
"For countries that required RT-PCR tests before arrival, those tourists need to buy insurance before returning home to ensure that if they are infected after visiting Thailand, they will have healthcare ready for them in time," he added.
He also played down fears that Chinese visitors pose a greater risk than any others.
"Covid-19 is still prevalent in every country. What we can do is be ready by ensuring everyone in Thailand is fully vaccinated to reduce severe sickness. Furthermore, I am confident that the majority of those who come to Thailand will also be fully vaccinated,'' he said.
"Experts in medical fields have confirmed to the ministry that the majority of people are now immune, and monitoring is sufficient. At the same time, we still have the medicine and medical personnel to take care of those who are infected in Thailand," he said.