Update: This article was updated on March 12, 2020 with a response from the US Embassy.
BANGKOK — Foreign tourists must rely on their own funds or insurance to pay for their treatment if they test positive for coronavirus in Thailand, government officials said.
While Thais and expats are covered by Thailand’s universal healthcare program, either by the so-called 30 baht welfare or labor social security, foreign travelers must foot the bill, according to several government spokespersons interviewed for this story.
“Regarding tourists’ expense in medical treatment, they must take care of that on their own,” government spokeswoman Naruemon Pinyosinwat said in a Tuesday interview.
Khananart Muennu, spokesman of the Ministry of Sports and Tourism, also said Wednesday that visitors from overseas must resort to their native country’s healthcare or other sources of money to pay for coronavirus treatment here.
The travelers can file for possible discounts and other fee waiving rights later if they procure evidence for them, Khananart said.
“If they are found to have the coronavirus, then it is Thailand’s obligation to care for them,” Khananart said. “After treatment, we will check if the patient has any healthcare coverage or welfare. … They will have to ask their own embassies to take care of them.”
People who suspect they may have the coronavirus should call the Department of Disease Control Hotline at 1422, who will send an ambulance, he added.
The revelation will likely add more uncertainty to potential travelers to Thailand, as a number of travel insurances do not cover epidemics like the coronavirus.
Inquiries made to multiple embassies responsible for the majority of foreign tourists in Thailand were met with vague responses.
When asked who will pay for treatment of its nationals in Thailand in cases of coronavirus, a press officer at Australian Embassy replied with an existing travel advisory, which stated that the Australian Government will not cover any overseas medical costs. The statement also recommended Australians to get travel insurance prior to traveling.
But the same press officer said the government has not decided whether this policy will extend to the coronavirus.
The US embassy responded on Thursday and said that the embassy will not pay for medical bills and should have a health insurance plan with overseas coverage. US citizens should return home by commercial air if they wish to do so rather than waiting for evacuation via the government.
“While the U.S. government has successfully evacuated hundreds of our citizens in the previous weeks, such flights are not standard practice and should not be relied upon by U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities,” the statement said.
The US embassy said its citizens should monitor the embassy page for latest updates regarding Covid–19.
The United Kingdom did not respond to inquiries regarding who will be responsible for medical treatment of their citizens in Thailand as of publication time, more than 46 hours after the inquiries were received.
An official at the Chinese Embassy said they do not know the latest financial policy on coronavirus treatment and referred inquiries to the Thai government.
A representative at the German Embassy also said they are not aware of the latest policy, but added that German nationals usually have to look after their own medical treatment overseas.
Additional reporting Teeranai Charuvastra, Pravit Rojanaphruk
Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously includes expats in the opening paragraph. In fact, the officials’ remarks were referring to foreign tourists. We regret the error.