The measures, designed to help curb the expected rise in the number of COVID-19 infected travellers after China reopens, have drawn criticism from a leading medical expert who warned that implementing such measures could be seen as discrimination against Chinese travellers.
Following its meeting on Thursday (Dec 29), the ministry decided to propose four new COVID-19 screening measures and another meeting scheduled to be held on Jan 5 with the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the Ministry of Transport, said Dr Chakrarat Pittayawonganon, chief of the Division of Epidemiology.
“All international arrivals must have a record of receiving at least two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, while all international travellers arriving in Thailand from China have to have a health insurance package that fully covers COVID-19 treatment,” Dr Chakrarat said, referring to the proposals.
These travellers also will be required to show negative results of an antigen test for COVID-19 that is completed 48 hours before arriving in Thailand, he said. They will also be asked for cooperation in wearing face masks, to practise social distancing and wash their hands frequently with hand sanitiser, reports the Bangkok Post.
The Department of Disease Control (DDC) also plans, in parallel, to conduct sentinel surveillance for COVID-19 infections in which it will randomly test international visitors arriving at Thailand’s international airports for COVID-19 using the RT-PCR test, he said.
“As for the Thais, they will be advised to keep wearing face masks in crowded areas, to get properly vaccinated and to undergo a self-antigen test if or when they develop symptoms suspected to be those of COVID-19,” he said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has projected that the number of Chinese travellers arriving in Thailand in January, February and March will be 60,000, 90,000 and 150,000, respectively, said Dr Sopon Iamsirithaworn, deputy director-general of the DDC.
These figures account for about 5% of all international arrivals, he said. Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob expects the number of Chinese travellers arriving in Thailand next year to be between 7 million and 10mn after China reopens its borders on Jan 8.
Prof Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Mahidol University at Siriraj Hospital, said he disagrees with the plan to implement seemingly “discriminatory” COVID-19 screening measures that single out Chinese travellers.