BANGKOK • Thailand received a group of tourists from China on Tuesday, its first such arrivals since commercial flights were banned in April to combat the coronavirus pandemic, the visitors seemingly undeterred by escalating street demonstrations in Bangkok.
Thirty-nine tourists from Shanghai arrived on Tuesday night, the deputy director of the country's main Suvarnabhumi Airport, Mr Kittipong Kittikachorn, said in a statement.
Thai public television showed masked tourists exiting the airport, with officials in full protective equipment spraying their luggage with disinfectant.
Outside, some of the tourists donned face shields and put on rubber gloves as they prepared to board buses to their hotels.
"Most of them planned to visit the beach and they already reserved hotel rooms," Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said, adding that the tourists had entered the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The arrivals come as anti-government protesters continue to defy a ban on gatherings after the authorities declared a severe emergency situation in Bangkok.
The unrest has not impacted interest in the country, Mr Yuthasak said. "There have been no cancellations or any inquiries about it so far and people are following the news."
Student-led rallies, sometimes drawing 10,000 people, have occupied busy intersections for hours before peacefully dispersing.
In one incident last week, a water cannon was used on demonstrators.
The tourism-reliant country could see just 6.7 million foreign visitors this year, the government says, less than a fifth of the record 39.8 million foreigners it welcomed into the country last year.
The government banned commercial flights in April to keep Covid-19 at bay, and new cases have mostly been Thais returning home.
Virus tests for travellers in region
All travellers entering China have to present Covid-19-negative certificates before boarding, with the tests taken at recognised facilities within three days of departure.
They will undergo a Covid-19 nucleic acid test upon arrival in China, enter a 14-day quarantine, and take another test at the end of it, unless otherwise exempted.
Travellers under the Singapore-China fast lane arrangement (for short-term business or official purposes) will not be required to be quarantined.
All inbound travellers will be tested for Covid-19. Those entering via the South Korea-Singapore fast lane have to undergo a PCR test within 72 hours before departure and another one upon arrival.
All others under normal entry are subject to 14 days' quarantine at their own cost of 2.1 million won (S$2,500) per person. Certain visa holders can skip quarantine but will be actively monitored if they test negative.
Foreign nationals and short-term visitors will serve quarantine at a designated government facility. Those quarantined at temporary facilities, except those coming from China and Vietnam, will undergo three rounds of diagnostic tests upon arrival, on the 10th day of admission, and either on the 14th day of admission or upon exit.
All travellers entering Japan have to undergo PCR tests and a 14-day quarantine. Those travelling on the Singapore-Japan residence track have to obtain a certificate of negative Covid-19 test result conducted within 72 hours of departure.
All foreign arrivals in Thailand must quarantine for 14 days in the country at a state-approved quarantine hotel. Travellers to Thailand are required to produce a "fit to fly" certificate, a negative Covid-19 PCR test report, health insurance, and quarantine hotel bookings.
Unless arriving on a quarantine-free flight from New Zealand, travellers entering Australia, including Australian citizens, must quarantine for 14 days at a designated facility.
They may be tested for Covid-19 in the first 48 hours and then between days 10 and 12 of quarantine.
The country has reported a total of 3,709 infections.
New tourist arrivals are on special 90-day visas and must quarantine for two weeks - seven days in their hotel rooms and seven days on their hotel grounds - and test negative three times before they can move around freely.
"Once they pass that, they will be able to move to other destinations (within Thailand)," Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said on Thai PBS television.
A second batch of 147 tourists from Guangzhou, China, are due to arrive next Monday, with more due next month.
"Winter is coming, so more tourists from European countries, the United States, Korea and Japan would also like to come visit us around this time," Mr Phiphat said.