Thailand declares coronavirus not dangerous, will end emergency

BANGKOK - Thailand will end a nationwide state of emergency declared in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak after it downgraded the virus from a "dangerous" communicable disease to one that only requires surveillance.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration agreed on Friday to let a state decree enforcing the emergency expire on Sept 30, Deputy Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha told reporters.

The emergency decree, which allows the government to streamline disease-control plans without multiple approvals from various agencies, has been in place since March 2020.

Thailand has moved to end most pandemic-era restrictions on travel and businesses following a steady decline in new Covid-19 cases and a pick-up in vaccination rate.

The lifting of controls has helped the tourism-reliant nation to lure back foreign visitors in large numbers in recent months.

The country has also removed Covid-19 from the same category as plague and smallpox and placed it on the same level as influenza and dengue to reflect the global easing of the outbreak and higher rate of vaccination.

The move will also boost tourism, seen as key to sustaining an economic recovery, according to officials.

From October, travellers to Thailand will no longer require proof of vaccination to enter the country, Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the Covid-19 panel, told a briefing.

Thailand has seen the rising number of foreign tourists gather momentum since the scrapping of a pre-arrival registration requirement, Covid-19 testing and insurance in July.

Arrivals were estimated at 5.26 million between Jan 1 and Sept 21 this year, he said. That was up from just 427,869 tourists in 2021, official data shows.

Before the pandemic, the overall tourism-related sector accounted for about a fifth of Thailand's economy and jobs, with nearly 40 million overseas visitors arriving in 2019, generating more than US$60 billion (S$85 billion) in revenue, according to the central bank.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2022, with the headline Thailand declares coronavirus not dangerous, will end emergency. Subscribe