Thailand is taking measures to ensure the safety of its citizens and all foreigners within its territory in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest statements by the Thai government announce temporary visa suspensions for travelers from the most affected areas, intended to lower the risk of further spreading of the disease.
Since its discovery in the Chinese region of Wuhan in late 2019, the new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) has infected over 130,000 people around the world. Although the vast majority of contagions remain in China, cases are rising in some other countries.
Thailand has so far experienced a relatively low number of infections and therefore, decided to temporarily cancel visa exemptions and visas on arrival for passengers from the most affected regions.
Suspension of the Thai Visa on Arrival
On Wednesday (March 11th) the Thai authorities removed the possibility to apply for a Thai visa directly at the airport — also known as visa on arrival or VoA. This decision applies to all VoA-eligible foreigners and is expected to be lifted in the future.
Until now, 18 nationalities could benefit from this application process, including:
- China (including Taiwan)
- Papua New Guinea
- Saudi Arabia
In giving the news, Minister of Interior Anupong Paochinda assured that “Thai embassies everywhere will ensure that no sick people will travel to Thailand.”
Visa Exemptions Temporarily Canceled
Citizens of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, South Korea, and Italy will also need to apply for a Thai visa now, since their visa-free status has been suspended.
This is a temporary measure and the normal visa policy is expected to return into place once the coronavirus outbreak is under control. It also only applies to the aforementioned nationalities.
Moreover, the government had previously announced that a 14-day mandatory quarantine will be required of foreigners coming from the following areas upon entry into Thailand:
- Hong Kong and Macao SARs
- Mainland China
- South Korea
Can I Travel to Thailand with the New Restrictions?
The temporary halt is only relevant for the cases specified above — namely, all permits on arrival and visa exemptions for 3 countries. At the moment, all other visas remain in place.
This means that those who hold a passport issued by one of the nations affected by the new measures may still be able to obtain permission to enter Thailand. All other nationals who wish to obtain a visa should proceed as before.
In some cases, the visa applicant may be asked to submit a health certificate and/ or insurance as part of their supporting documentation. Moreover, passengers may be screened for fever or other symptoms upon arrival by officers and medics trained by the Thai Ministry of Public Health.
To learn more about their eligibility and document requirements, prospective travelers should contact the nearest Thai embassy or consulate.
How to minimize contagion while in Thailand
The same precautions taken at home should be respected while traveling to and across Thailand. Public health experts around the world advise the following :
- Wash hands frequently with warm water and soap (about 20 seconds) and when not possible, use a sanitizer gel
- Use a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing
- Avoid touching the face if hands haven’t been washed recently
- Avoid close contact with people who are not well
The dedicated hotline of the Thai Department of Disease Control is 1422 and should be used by anyone who starts experiencing symptoms. A self-reporting online tool (available in Thai, English, and Chinese) has also been launched.
The normal health recommendations for Thailand (including food and water safety and protecting oneself from insect bites) still apply.
How Has Coronavirus Affected Thailand?
The coronavirus has reached over 120 countries worldwide. That is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the COVID-19 disease a pandemic.
Fortunately, Thailand remains one of the least affected areas. There have been 75 confirmed cases so far, of which 35 made a full recovery.
Like anywhere else in the world, the disease has affected the Thai tourist industry. Arrivals dropped by 40% in February.
Is Thailand prepared against the coronavirus?
The WHO Thailand Situation Report published on March 5 states that the country:
“Has strong capacities for case detection, risk assessment, case investigation, laboratory diagnosis, clinical management, infection prevention and control, and risk communication”.
John Hopkins University ranked Thailand second in having a robust health system able to assist the sick as well as protecting medical personnel. Concerning the ability to prevent the emergence or release of pathogens, the country was ranked third.
According to the study, Thailand is Asia’s most prepared nation when it comes to dealing with an epidemic.
This means that Thailand is a low-risk area with adequate infrastructures and that the local authorities are doing everything in their power to protect Thai citizens and foreigners alike.