No compulsory quarantine of visitors to Thailand: Health Ministry

By: AFP      Published: 02:46 PM, 6 Mar, 2020
No compulsory quarantine of visitors to Thailand: Health Ministry

Thai health authorities on Friday said they would not order the compulsory quarantine of visitors from countries hit hard by coronavirus, as the kingdom struggles to balance health fears with the needs of its flatlining economy.

The holidays of possibly tens of thousands of people were cast into doubt on Tuesday when the health minister insisted a quarantine of all entrants from China - including territories of Hong Kong and Macau - Italy, Iran, South Korea, would be imposed.

On Friday health authorities spiked the plan, instead "recommending" arrivals from the four countries stay indoors and report to authorities for monitoring.

"We recommend home quarantine," Sukhum Kanchanapimai, permanent-secretary of the Public Health Ministry told reporters.

Travellers from the four countries will have to "report on their health status daily", said Tanarak Plipat of the Disease Control Department, or risk "punishment" under the law.

A British man who entered the kingdom from Hong Kong became the country's 48th confirmed case of the virus, health authorities said.

But the number detected has remained surprisingly low - in a country visited by tens of millions of people each year.

Speculation is pointing at a limited testing regime in a country determined not to frighten off visitors.

Friday's announcement, for now, ends a week-long barrage of conflicting information, which baffled holidaymakers hunting winter sun and spotlighted the conundrum posed to a country reliant on tourist dollars and exports. 

Thailand attracts some 40 million foreigners a year.

But the impact of the virus has seen visitor numbers collapse.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand confirmed Thursday the country could see a loss of six million visitors in 2020.

As a result the country's tourist-reliant economy has hit the skids, with the impact of COVID-19 crisis hacking back at already sluggish growth forecasts to as low as two percent this year.

With exports seizing up to China and other COVID-19 hit nations, experts warn Thailand is facing a hammer blow to its economy.