Tourism operators wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and other government officials, calling for the country to be fully reopened to foreign visitors from March.
In the letter, the groups say they want all entry restrictions dropped, including the Thailand Pass and PCR testing on arrival, and want Covid declared endemic. They point to several other countries, including Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the UK, where nearly all Covid restrictions have been rolled back and the virus declared endemic.
He says Thailand now needs to further ease Covid-19 restrictions for tourists or it could lose the ability to compete with other nations.
The Philippines recently lifted the PCR test requirement on arrival for foreign visitors, while Vietnam confirmed it will reopen to foreign tourism in March.
Tourism added that April is an important month for tourism as Easter is a popular time for foreigners to travel and many come to Thailand for the Songkran holiday.
The letter goes on to cite the low number of infections detected during PCR tests on overseas arrivals. Using data from Phuket between February 1 and 13, the letter says the infection rate among overseas arrivals was 2% on day 1 and 3% on day 5.
“Yet,” the letter states, “these infected tourists have apparently caused no burden to the country’s health care system because their infection rate is very close to that of ordinary flu.”
Thailand’s Hotel Association says the government must drop the PCR test requirement for foreign visitors if there is any hope of saving the country’s tourism industry.
THA President Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi said demand for the revamped Test & Go program is weaker now than when it launched in November, due to the upcoming end of peak season. However, she says the new requirement for a second PCR test on day 5 is also a factor, adding that tourism will surely face another slump if the testing requirement is not relaxed.
The THA boss was addressing attendees at a post-conference in Bangkok when she stressed that Thailand must remain competitive as other countries such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Australia all open with fewer entry restrictions. In Europe, several countries have dropped the need for PCR tests prior to entry and the Maldives, which also dropped the requirement for PCR tests, enjoyed tourist numbers in 2021 that exceeded those in 2019.
Marisa went on to say that the additional requirements mean that many hotels have had to hire additional staff. They need 45% occupancy just to break even, compared to 30-40% occupancy pre-pandemic. However, if the government relaxed some of the entry requirements for foreign visitors, she says hotels could achieve 50% occupancy rates.
CIMB Thai Bank Chief Economist Amorntep also spoke at the conference, who believes that Thailand’s tourism sector will lag behind the overall economy during the post-covid recovery.
He believes that even if the Thai economy will reach the same level as before the pandemic in the first quarter of next year, the recovery of tourism in the country will take longer. Hotels targeting high-end customers will recover first, while those below 4 stars and travel agencies will take longer to rebound.
Responding to public sentiment calling for restrictions to be eased, Thailand’s public health minister said the country needed to balance economic recovery with the need to protect public health.
Anutin Charnvirakul said the number of Covid infections is currently rising due to the highly contagious variant of Omicron, but Anutin expects the infection rate to start dropping soon. Once that happens, he says the government will review the measures, taking into account the Covid situation around the world.
The Minister of Health also acknowledges that most deaths among Omicron patients were the result of other health conditions or because they were not vaccinated. He says there are still enough hospital beds to accommodate those who are seriously ill, while asymptomatic patients or those with only mild symptoms can self-isolate at home.
The Minister of Health also urged those who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid to get vaccinated, adding that there are now enough vaccines to administer booster shots to all Thais and expatriates.
So far, more than 120 million doses of the vaccine have been administered to Thais and expatriates. Some 75% of the population received their first vaccines and 26% received their boosters. About 90 million additional vaccine doses will be purchased this year.
The Thailand Privilege Card company, which runs the Thailand Elite Visa program, has launched a new program for wealthy foreigners who need a work permit.
For an investment of ONLY 30 million baht, the program, called the Flexible Plus program, will allow eligible (i.e. wealthy) foreigners to obtain a work permit. The move is aimed at attracting investors and boosting Thailand’s devastated economy.
According to a report by Nation Thailand, the proposal was approved by the Cabinet in October, and investors accepted under the Flexible Plus program will also have the right to work in the kingdom.
The program is also open to existing Thailand Elite visa holders who have 5 or 10 years left on their visa, depending on their program. In any case, 30 million baht investment is required.
The program is primarily aimed at investors from China, Hong Kong, Japan, UK, France, USA, Singapore and Russia.
Nation Thailand reports that there are currently more than 16,000 members registered for privilege card programs in Thailand.
The Thai government plans to evacuate its citizens from Ukraine if tensions with Russia escalate.
According to a report, around 230 Thai nationals live in Ukraine. Thani Sangrat of the Thai Foreign Ministry said officials at the Thai Embassy in Poland had drawn up a plan for their safe evacuation if necessary.
The Embassy created a Line group dedicated to Thai citizens and requested the cooperation of the Polish and Ukrainian governments in the event of an emergency evacuation. The embassy issued a warning to Thais on Sunday, urging them to avoid all travel to Ukraine. Thailand’s ambassador to Poland said the city of Lviv in western Ukraine could be used to move Thais out of the country to Poland.
Meanwhile, in Bangkok, police have tightened security in areas around the Ukrainian and Russian embassies. The Metropolitan Police Office has confirmed that special branch officers, patrol officers and other security agencies monitor both embassies and residences.
A Move Forward MP accused the government of covering up the spread of African swine fever during a parliamentary debate yesterday.
MP Padipat said swine fever spread across the country in 2020 as a direct result of the government covering it up when it first hit in 2019.
When the disease was first discovered, 300,000 pigs died either from the disease or from farmers who slaughtered them to prevent the disease from spreading. In the past, Thai authorities have said deaths were due to other reasons.
Padipat said veterinary deans tested the dead pigs and found African swine fever, proving authorities wrong. In January, the deputy general of Thailand’s livestock development department insisted the department had followed all procedures and “couldn’t have” covered up the spread of African swine fever.
Meanwhile, pork prices have soared nationwide, with the number of breeding pigs on the market rising from 1.1 million before the outbreak to 660,000. The vice general said the situation would take eight to 12 months to solve because local piglets must be at least six months old before they can be slaughtered.
Padipat said pork price inflation started rising in October from 125 baht per kilogram to 220 baht per kilogram in January, which he said is different from the trend in pork prices around the world.
He added that the government’s crackdown on the hoarding of pork in frozen warehouses was just a ‘charade’ to deceive the Thai people, who he said were not informed of the spread of swine fever. African.