Thailand confident of controlling virus 12 days before foreign tourists arrive

Tourists wearing protective masks walk at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, 29 January 2020. (Photo by Anusak Laowilas/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

With just two weeks to go until the scheduled reopening of Thailand to foreign tourists from low-risk countries, the Ministry of Public Health has expressed confidence it would be able to put the Covid situation under control. Health authorities now say outbreaks will be dealt with locally via targeted area sealing, as opposed to a country-wide lockdown.

Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul elaborated on the preparations being made for the reopening of the country to foreign tourists on November 1, saying public health measures have already been devised to accommodate the launch. The measures include disease screening at entry, paperwork requirements, proof of Covid vaccination, and a tracking system for each individual while they remain in Thailand.

Meanwhile, a survey by the Dusit Poll has recently found that 60% of the public were not ready for the reopening of the country due to worries over the prospects for a new round of COVID-19 outbreaks. The poll agency said it would fall on the Department of Disease Control to foster understanding among the public about the reopening.

Department of Disease Control (DDC) Director-General Opas Karnkawinpong said the number of new infections has started to fall and the outbreak situation has improved. Infections were being found in small clusters that were possible to trace and therefore the scope of each outbreak circle can be contained. The principle control measures at the moment involve each province implementing a detailed disease control plan unique to the area. For example, provinces in the South were stressing travel restrictions whereas industrial provinces were focusing on a ‘bubble and seal’ approach.

Dr. Opas said the outbreak situations have improved in 17 provinces where tourism revival is being piloted, and he believed each province was more or less ready for the reopening. He added that future outbreaks should be dealt with via targeted, area-specific lockdowns that do not disrupt travel. (NNT)