Coronavirus: No compulsory self-quarantine in Thailand for visitors from high-risk areas

People walking in Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 6, 2020.
People walking in Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 6, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK - Thailand's health ministry said on Friday (March 6) that those arriving from coronavirus-hit places, including Singapore, do not have to quarantine themselves, clarifying conflicting statements issued earlier this week.

Countries on Thailand's watchlist include severely-affected nations China, South Korea, Italy and Iran as well as other countries like Switzerland, Netherlands, the US and Spain.

The ministry said while a two-week self-quarantine was not compulsory, it was recommended.

"We haven't yet enforced the law to quarantine everyone except for the Thai workers returning from South Korea," Disease Control Department deputy director Thanarak Phaliphat told a press briefing.

The announcement came one day after the Royal Gazette published a list of six places - China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Italy and Iran - categorised as "dangerous communicable disease areas".

Dr Thanarak said on Friday that visitors from these six places will be required to report to the Health Ministry.

"What we will proceed with in the next day or two is to require everyone coming from (these places) to report their symptoms daily through the Health Ministry's channels," he added. These communication channels include an app and the ministry's hotline number 1422.

He did not say how these reporting requirements would be enforced.

Friday's announcement comes after the Thai authorities sent conflicting statements about quarantine requirements earlier this week, causing confusion for travellers planning to visit the country.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul had posted on Facebook a ministry announcement that listed 11 virus-hit places as "dangerous communicable disease areas".

 
 
 

The places listed were South Korea, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Germany, Japan, France, Singapore, Italy and Iran.

The announcement said that a two-week self-quarantine was mandatory "without exceptions" for those coming from these areas. The post was deleted and his Facebook page deactivated a few hours later.

Thailand draws about 40 million tourists a year, but the coronavirus outbreak has severely affected inbound travel. The Tourism Authority of Thailand confirmed on Thursday that the country could see a loss of six million visitors in 2020, reported Agence France-Presse.

There are 48 confirmed cases of the virus in Thailand as of Friday, with the latest case being a British man who travelled from London and transited in Hong Kong. There has been one death - a 35-year-old Thai retail worker.

 
 

Meanwhile, local health authorities are bracing themselves for an influx of thousands of undocumented Thai workers from South Korea, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases outside China, at more than 6,500.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Wednesday all Thais returning from the South Korean city of Daegu and the North Gyeongsang province will be quarantined in government facilities for two weeks.