BANGKOK: Foreign tourists entering Thailand will be given an extended length of stay between October and March next year as the country aims to support its post-Covid economic recovery.
As pressures from the Covid-19 pandemic eases, Thailand hopes to attract more tourists back to the country with the tourism sector being one of its main economic pillars pre-Covid.
Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin said last week that the longer visas will be valid for 45 days compared to the current 30 days, while the visa on arrival scheme will be doubled from 15 to 30 days.
According to a Bangkok Post report, he said the government hoped this will help boost tourist spending, revive the economy and reduce the impact of the pandemic.
Projections from the Tourism and Sports Ministry put the expected number of foreign tourists at about 10 million this year.
However, local tourism players said a more realistic number could be around seven million tourists as until Aug 16, only about four million foreign tourists have visited Thailand.
Bloomberg reports that since the beginning of the year, Thailand gained 176.3 billion baht (US$4.93 billion) in revenue from 3.78 million foreign arrivals.
It said most visitors were from Malaysia, India and Singapore. This is a jump of 3,214 per cent from the same period last year, as border controls were still in place then.
Authorities have also said they see the number of visitors rising to 30 million people next year but it is still short of the almost 40 million foreign tourists arrivals that was recorded in 2019.
The Bangkok Post also reports Dr Taweesilp saying that the government will declare Covid-19 endemic in October, and the CCSA will no longer be the main agency dealing with the disease.
He said matters related to Covid-19 will then placed be under the emergency operations centre of the Public Health Ministry as well as provincial communicable disease committees.
Starting November, he said national and provincial committees will be the sole agencies dealing with the disease and infected people will be isolated using the Department of Medical Services guidelines.
Infected people would be isolated in line with the guidelines of the Department of Medical Services, said Dr Taweesilp.
He said the decision to transition into the endemic stage was made as the number of severe cases and deaths have reduced.
“The goal is for people to be able to coexist safely with Covid-19 and live normal lives,” Dr Taweesilp said, according to the Bangkok Post report.
He explained that the current Covid-19 situation was at the green level, with 2,000 to 3,999 hospitalised cases and 11 to 39 deaths a day. There are between 201 and 399 patients on ventilators, while clusters of infection are limited.
He added that though these numbers were not high, the number new cases were rising due to the spread of the highly transmitable BA.5 sub-variant of the Omicron strain.
He said the incidence of Covid-19 would be similar to influenza, and there will be new cases all year long.
Although Covid-19 will be downgraded, Thailand is yet to decide whether the state of emergency would also be lifted.
The state of emergency imposed to cope with Covid-19 has also been extended to the end of September. This will give health authorities more time to further monitor the situation before making a decision on the matter.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said last Friday that the CCSA has not yet considered the scrapping of the emergency decree imposed to curb the pandemic.
“It [the decree] is still necessary to integrate the operations of various agencies. The decree is not intended for other purposes. It is only meant to ensure the public is safe from Covid-19,” Gen Prayut said.
According to the Bangkok Post report, Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai said even if the emergency decree was still in place, it would not be an issue for the Apec meeting due to be held in Bangkok in November.
He said should be no problem as several foreign agencies have held meetings in Thailand with the decree still in place.
Source: New Straits Times