Foreign medical tourists to be given entry priority

Foreign patients holding doctor appointments in Thai hospitals will be given top priority.
Foreign patients holding doctor appointments in Thai hospitals will be given top priority.

The Thai ministry responsible for tourism has specified that the first foreigners to be allowed into the country, possibly in July, will be restricted to business people with written support from partner companies and patients holding doctor appointments in Thai hospitals. Medical tourism in Thai private-sector hospitals has become a profitable niche market in recent years.

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Earlier, it had been suggested by government agencies that the first priority would be permanent residents and foreigners stranded abroad who are married to Thai partners and/or have family financial responsibilities.  The new announcement seems to push humanitarian considerations further down the line.

Meanwhile the Tourism Council of Thailand is lobbying for restricted-destination travel bubbles between Thailand and China as early as September.  Because quarantining is obviously non-feasible for short-stay vacationers, a tracking app to keep tabs on individuals during their stay together with coronavirus tests at their hotels are under consideration.

Travel experts say that the complex phasing-in procedure of re-admitting foreigners is likely to be a lengthy process.  New visa rules have to be agreed with embassies and consulates abroad, whilst the immigration bureau here will have to prepare for checking whatever paperwork is eventually mandated by the government.

What is clear is that Thailand is nowhere near agreeing to a policy for the return of tourists on a more general scale.  Wannabe visitors with UK, US or European passports (and many others) have the problem that they hail from countries with a poor record in containing the coronavirus pandemic.  Minister of Tourism Khun Phiphat Rtchakitprakarn stated yesterday, “Thailand cannot hope for an influx of foreign visitors this year”.