20,000+ Russians Stranded in Thailand by Coronavirus

Tourists gather at Immigration Bureau to extend their visa in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, March 27, 2020. Photo: Sakchai Lalit / AP

BANGKOK, March 30 (TASS) — About 20,800 Russian nationals want to return to Russia from Thailand in the wake in the novel coronavirus pandemic, Russian Ambassador to that country Yevgeny Tomikhin said on Monday.

“We have received some 20,800 requests from people who have found themselves in this situation,” he told journalists. “Less than half of them are those who have tickets to cancelled flights by third countries’ air companies.”

“Most of our compatriots are staying in Phuket and adjacent provinces — 8,000 people, in Pattaya and neighboring provinces — about 5,000 people, in Bangkok and Hua Hin, and on the islands of Samui and Phangan — 4,400 people, and about 2,500 people are scattered around the rest of Thailand,” he said.

The Russian embassy stopped to receive requests from Russian nationals on March 30.

According to Tomikhin, there were about 70,000 Russians in Thailand by early March. “About 40,000 of them were package-tour vacationers who came here by charter flights from various Russian cities. When the situation began to worsen, most of them returned home,” he explained.

Russia’s flagship air carriers makes two flights a day from Bangkok from March 28 to 31. About 3,000 Russians have used this opportunity to return home.

“According to Aeroflot reports, Thai Airways, which cancelled all of its international flights, has begun to direct its tickets to the Russian air company’s flights,” the ambassador noted. “About 50 people have left Thailand this way.”

“Some of our nationals who had no return tickets but who are trying to buy them are in a risk group since the duration of their stay in Thailand may be longer than their visa period. I hope our diplomatic mission will be able to help such people within days,” he said, adding that Russian diplomats have been in close contact with the local migration authorities on that matter.

“The Thai side will extend the term of their stay in the country for 30 days. We keep on saying that its will be a one-time extension to give people time to resolve the problem with their return to Russia,” he explained.

“We hope that a larger part of our compatriots will be able to return to Russia within this week,” he stressed.

By now, the overall number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Thailand has exceeded 1,500. Ten patients have died and 127 have recovered. All shopping malls and marketplaces, except supermarkets and stores offering primary necessity goods, in Bangkok and other cities will stay closed until the end of April. Foreigners have been banned to enter the country for the period of the state of emergency, i.e. from March 26 to April 30.

Phuket governor ruled to close the land border checkpoint and the island’s ports for a period from March 30 to April 30. Phuket International Airport will be closed from April 10 to 30.