Earlier today, Thailand became the latest in a long line of countries to announce that it will be closing its borders. Effective midnight, foreigners will no longer be allowed to enter the country. It has yet to restrict movement inside the country but will set up inter-provincial checkpoints.
Entry ban all through April
With an entry ban commencing on midnight Wednesday until the 30th of April, Thailand is closing its borders to all but Thai citizens and foreigners with special permits. As reported by Reuters, the government said it has no immediate plans to impose curfews or travel restrictions within the country, but that checkpoints would be set up to screen inter-provincial travelers. It did say that an “all-day-curfew” could be introduced in certain areas if the number of cases kept going up.
The emergency decree issued by Prime Minister Prauyt Chan-o-cha early on Wednesday bans all foreigners from entry at all points. This comes with exceptions for shippers, diplomats, drivers, and pilots, as well as foreigners with work permits for employment in the country.
The move is an escalation in travel measures imposed over the past weeks. Thailand had already stopped approving visas on arrival. It also required arriving passengers to have a medical certificate no older than 72 hours, showing that they were not infected with coronavirus, and proof that they had travel insurance with a minimum of $100,000 in coverage.
Thailand recorded first case out of China
At the time of writing, Thailand had 934 cases of confirmed coronavirus infections and four deaths. Thailand was the first country to confirm a case of COVID-19 outside of China when a 61-year old Chinese woman from Wuhan tested positive in Bangkok on the 13th of January, while traveling with a tour group.
Thai AirAsia’s humanitarian flight
On the 4th of February, the government dispatched a Thai AirAsia plane to bring home 138 Thais from Wuhan, the Chinese province where the coronavirus outbreak began. They were flown to a naval airport in the Ban Chang district in Rayong and were quarantined for 14 days at a base not far away.
The airline said it considered the repatriation flight a humanitarian mission and would absorb all the costs. Thai AirAsia suspended all its regular commercial traffic to Wuhan on the 24th of January. Normally it operates two daily flights from Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport, and one from Phuket.
Airlines already planned to suspend most traffic
Thai Airways was one of the few airlines still flying the A380. This will surely effectively ground the airline’s last two remaining in service out of its six. It was already set to suspend most international flights by the 1st of April, with domestic routes being transferred THAI Smile. Thai AirAsia and Thai Lion Air had already suspended all international and domestic flights beginning today until the 30th of April.
Tourism revenues make up to 17.7% of Thailand’s GDP. Needless to say, the economic repercussions of the travel ban will be severe. This is particularly as it relies on the spending from Chinese tourists for economic growth, a market that was set to re-establish itself in April as Chinese travel restrictions are lifted. Where it will leave Thai, Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air, and the other Thai carriers remains to be seen.
Do you believe that severe restrictions on international travel is the way to go to combat the spread of coronavirus, or are governments overreacting? Let us know in the comments!