Thailand Mulls Mandatory Quarantine For Arrivals From Risk Prone Countries Including Germany, Japan and Singapore

The Government of Thailand is currently in a process of determining further health & public safety measures surrounding arrivals of both Thai nationals and foreigners from nations with a high number of COVID19 cases.

Such measures (which would also affect tourists) could include a mandatory quarantine and a preliminary list already includes nine countries classified as high risk, most of which account for large number of tourism arrivals.

It wouldn’t be Thailand if there wasn’t a lot of confusion and unclear information. As such, yesterday the  Public Health Ministry through the Public Health Minister himself circulated a signed document that all people entering Thailand from their visits to Japan, Germany, South Korea, China, Taiwan, France, Singapore, Italy and Iran to isolate themselves for 14 days.

The Bangkok Post picked up the news about the document and published it on Twitter:

It just took a few minutes until said document was withdrawn from his social media page. This is the same minister who recently lambasted foreigners who wouldn’t wear face masks in public and other “foot in mouth” statements throughout his tenure.

Edit: Just a day after he published his confusing posts the health minister deleted his entire Facebook account according to a Bangkok Post article. He probably got a not so positive feedback from the General.

It’s unclear at this point what measures the country will put in place even though it’s pretty clear that something will be done sooner or later. I arrived at Bangkok Airport from Singapore this weekend and there were no flight specific checks in place. There was however a special counter/zone where people arriving or transiting from/to certain countries received health checks.

Right now it’s not known how the government would identify “high risk” destinations and the initially published list is rather confusing. In any case for this to become law it has to be published in the Royal Gazette and take effect the following day.

Based on these daily statistics about COVID19 cases those countries on the health ministries list have very little in common.

As of this morning the numbers varied greatly:

  • China: 80,270 cases
  • South Korea: 5,328 cases
  • Italy: 2,502 cases
  • Iran: 2,336 cases

Then the remaining countries:

  • France: 212 cases
  • Germany: 203 cases
  • Japan: 293 cases (excluding the cruise ship incident)
  • Taiwan: 42 cases
  • Singapore: 110 cases

Meanwhile Thailand itself has a total reported number of a mere 43 COVID19 infected patients. Is that realistic?

No matter what the numbers are but to pull names of countries out of a hat and determine them high risk makes very little sense especially when it includes names such as Singapore which was one of the first to put a very stringent health protocol in effect, let alone the fact that 3/4 of the cases are now fully recovered.

At the same time the Bangkok Post published an article today bringing a totally different headache to light: The return/repatriation of illegal Thai workers from various affected countries to their home.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will call an urgent meeting on Wednesday to discuss what to do about 10,000 illegal Thai workers he believes may try to return home from South Korea to escape the Covid-19 epidemic there.

The move came after the Ministry of Public Health on Monday expressed serious concerns about how to handle droves of so-called phi noi (little ghosts) from South Korea after 138 Thais who were airlifted from Wuhan in China last month had to spend two weeks in quarantine in Sattahip. …

The Foreign Affairs Ministry said the South Korea Immigration Office passed on information that more than 5,000 Thais reported to the office from December last year to March 1 wishing to return home.

“The problem is how to control such a large number of people if all of them are to be quarantined. The government must find proper measures. I realise that the people are not confident and scared … But public health officials and medical personnel are well-prepared,” the prime minister said. …

Although the prime minister said there are 10,000 phi noi in South Korea, some estimates put the number much higher at 140,000.

In a related development, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon told reporters earlier there was no law in effect currently that can force anyone to isolate themselves.

Suchart Pornchaiwisetkul, director-general of the Department of Employment, said that Thai workers who return from countries hit by the Covid-19 are required to observe a 14-day self-quarantine.

He also said that South Korea has granted a reprieve to illegal workers who want to return home voluntarily, and they have to report to South Korean authorities by June 30. …

There are actually a lot of illegal Thai workers all over South East Asia who enter countries such as South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong or Singapore on Tourist visas and then work as household help in the best case or at worst as “nightlife entertainers” in the various red light districts.

It’s always easy to blame governments for fouling up and not informing or preparing the public properly but unless there is intentional lying going on one has to understand that this is unchartered territory and one can only proceed step by step.

While Thailand appears to be well prepared at this time with a good health system and distributing free masks (for as much or little they actually help) to people, these confusing announcements of the Public Health Buffoon don’t really help anyone.

Conclusion

If you have a trip booked to Thailand that either originates or transits in countries that could be seen as “high risk” it recommended to keep an eye out for updated information as things develop. As of this time there are no restrictions on arrivals but that doesn’t mean those can’t kick in with very little (24 hours) notice. Tourism would obviously collapse because nobody goes to visit Thailand just to spend 14 days in a hotel room and not hotel would want to be transformed into a quarantine center.

The primary concern at this point in time appears to be the repatriation of those Thai citizens who are illegally in other affected countries and who would definitely have to undergo a mandatory quarantine both abroad and back home.

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