Health Minister: Banning Chinese Tourists is Not a Solution

Police hand out face masks to Chinese tourists in Surat Thani province on Jan. 30, 2020.

BANGKOK — Public health minister Anutin Charnvirakul on Thursday said imposing a travel ban on Chinese nationals would not help the government’s fight against coronavirus epidemic.

Speaking at today’s news conference, Anutin said the infection is still being reported even in countries and territories that restricted or closed their borders to Chinese travelers. Instead of a travel ban, the minister said the government will focus on health screening and medical treatment.

Anutin said a decision not to impose travel restriction on Chinese nationals will also be “a positive result” to Thai-Chinese relations in the future.

His announcement is a U-turn from his previous attempt to propose a suspension of visas on arrivals for Chinese tourists to the Cabinet. That proposal was also rejected by the Cabinet.

Approximately 10.9 million Chinese nationals visited Thailand in 2019, contributing the largest chunk of tourism revenues for the kingdom.

Thailand counted 25 patients infected with coronavirus so far, though eight of them have already recovered and been discharged from hospital, officials said.