BANGKOK — Officials on Wednesday doubled down on their proposal to resume limited tourism amid the global coronavirus pandemic by expanding a vague reentry plan to cover the entire country.
Even as experts have yet to settle their debate over the “Phuket Model” – which called for arrivals of some tourists to the southern island of Phuket – National Economic and Social Development Board sec-gen Tossaporn Sirisamphan said the plan will now be reworked to include other provinces. To avoid confusion, that is.
“The Phuket Model is causing confusion and opposition as a result,” Tossaporn said. “Therefore, we’ve adjusted the plan to allow foreign tourists to travel at large, since some of the provinces such as Bangkok have the capability to handle foreign tourists.”
What was known as the Phuket Model will now be rebranded as “Special Tourist Visa,” he said.
It is unclear whether the plan will have any backing, either from the government or business communities. A number of local residents, health experts, and tourism officials have spoken out against the proposal due to concerns that the coronavirus outbreak may return.
But health minister Anutin Charnvirakul was adamant the measure could go ahead; he said he already had approval from the government’s pandemic response center.
Tossaporn also said PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has given a green light to the new proposal, which will permit foreign tourists to go anywhere in the country after spending 14 days in quarantine.
“They will undergo the same measures as Thai returning from overseas,” Tossaporn said. “After spending 14 days in quarantine and cleared of the virus, they can go anywhere as they wish.”
But officials have yet to determine tourists from which country will be allowed to come in, Tossaporn said. The final list will be decided by the tourism and foreign ministries, he added.
Tourism Authority of Thailand governor Yuthasak Supasorn said tourists holding the “Special Tourist Visa” will be permitted to stay in the country for 90 days, after which they can apply for two extensions at 90 days each.
He said the visa is intended for long stay tourists, who would spend more than average visitors.
In today’s briefing, the government’s COVID-19 response center reported one new case of infection inside the state quarantine. The latest patient was identified as a 38-year-old Japanese from Japan.
The country’s total tally now stands at 3,447.