Gov’t Revives Quarantine Threat for Foreign Travelers

An immigration officer disinfects an immigration desk at Suvarnabhumi Airport on March 11, 2020.
An immigration officer disinfects an immigration desk at Suvarnabhumi Airport on March 11, 2020.

BANGKOK — A minister on Wednesday said foreign travelers from four countries will be subject to a 14-day quarantine inside an airport hotel, the latest claim in a series of contradicting remarks by the government on coronavirus measures.

Speaking at a news conference today, interior affairs minister Anupong Paochinda said Thais and foreigners traveling from China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy must present their health certificates before boarding their flights to Thailand.

Foreign travelers from those destinations, which include the semi autonomous regions of Hong Kong and Macau, will also be subject to 14-day quarantine inside Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport hotel.

Read: Foreigners Must Bankroll Their Covid-19 Treatment in Thailand

“If they refuse, they will be immediately sent back to their countries of origins,” Anupong said.

But Anupong did not say when the measure will be in effect. The Immigration Bureau could not be reached as of publication time, while Suvarnabhumi Airport manager Suthirawat Suwannawat declined to comment on the matter.

The statement revived the threats of mandatory quarantine for foreign travelers in Thailand after a week of flip-flopping on the issue by Thai government officials.

Health minister Anutin Charnvirakul initially said there would be a quarantine “without exception” for foreigners, though he later removed his statement without explanation.

A spokesman for the health ministry also said foreigners from high-risk nations will be put in quarantine inside their hotels, though the same ministry said later on the same day the policy will be based on voluntary cooperation.

New Travel Restrictions Imposed

Anupong also announced more travel restrictions today, including the suspension of visa-on-arrival and free-visa schemes affecting 22 countries and territories.

Anupong said the programs were suspended to contain the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected at least 115,000 people worldwide since December.

Those who want to enter into the kingdom must apply for a visa at Thai diplomatic missions in their respective countries, he said.

“This measure is now effective until the situation is resolved,” Anupong said. “I hope every country understands the situation. The government is putting the safety of our citizens as the priority and we are doing our best to prevent Thailand from entering Phase 3 of the epidemic.”

Anupong said citizens of these countries and territories are now required to present a medical certificate upon applying for a Thai visa to prove they are not infected by the virus.

Travelers from China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, Hong Kong, and Macau, must also show their health certificates prior to boarding flights to Thailand, or they will be refused boarding.

A Facebook page based in South Korea suggested the measure is already in effect.

“Hundreds of Thais were refused at check-in counters. They cannot go back to Thailand after the new law comes out,” wrote the page, Korea Guide for Thais.

A health official in Hong Kong also questioned the practicality of the new measure.

“Health proof for flights… I’ve never heard of it. I don’t know how people can prove they’re free of the novel coronavirus, because the tests are not available at private clinics,” Chuang Shuk-kwan from the Centre for Health Protection told RTHK news site.

She was also quoted as saying, “Perhaps some private hospitals have the test kits. I don’t know if they can issue such proof.”

The countries and territories that have their visa-on-arrival and free-visa programs revoked in Thailand include:

  1. The Republic of Bulgaria
  2. Kingdom of Bhutan
  3. People’s Republic of China
  4. Republic of Cyprus
  5. Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  6. The Republic of Fuji
  7. Georgia
  8. Republic of India
  9. The Republic of Kazakhstan
  10. The Republic of Malta
  11. The United Mexican States
  12. The Republic of Nauru
  13. Papua New Guinea
  14. Romania
  15. The Russian Federation
  16. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  17. Taiwan
  18. The Republic of Uzbekistan
  19. The Republic of Vanuatu
  20. The Italian Republic 
  21. Republic of Korea
  22. Hong Kong

Additional reporting Teeranai Charuvastra