Coronavirus: Thailand suspends visa-free policy but consulate insists Hong Kong not affected

Coronavirus: Thailand suspends visa-free policy but consulate insists Hong Kong not affected 1
  • Travelers from South Korea, Italy and Hong Kong now need visas to enter the kingdom, according to its interior minister
  • However, the special administrative region’s Thai consulate later released a statement saying travelers from Hong Kong and Macau were still exempt
Thailand’s interior minister on Wednesday said it would suspend its visa exemption policy for travellers from Hong Kong, South Korea and Italy, and stop visa-on-arrival applications from 18 countries including mainland China and India, as the kingdom ramps up efforts to check the
spread of the novel coronavirus.

Travellers from these destinations will have to apply for a visa at Thai embassies and present a medical certificate proving they are free of Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus.

“These measures will solve the problem of foreigners arriving from risky zones,” Minister of Interior Anupong Paochinda told reporters, adding that he would start the process immediately but it was not immediately clear when the restrictions would take effect.

However, the Thai Consulate-General in Hong Kong later released a statement insisting the visa exemption for travellers from the city, as well as those from Macau, would remain in place.

Government spokesperson Narumon Pinyosinwat told This Week in Asia that Thailand’s Foreign Affairs Ministry would work out bilateral agreements in due course to comply with the interior ministry’s new regulation.

She also said the visa policy changes announced Wednesday were in addition to the rules already imposed on travellers entering Thailand from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Italy and Iran, which have been deemed “dangerous communicable disease areas”.

Since last week, travellers from these six locations have had to show a medical certificate to prove they are in good health before boarding a flight to the kingdom. Thailand’s aviation authority has instructed airlines not to issue boarding passes to those attempting to travel without a certificate.

Narumon confirmed that these travellers would also have to quarantine themselves for 14 days once they arrive in Thailand.

The country’s Public Health Ministry said visitors were required to disclose their self-quarantine locations and contact details to the government, or face an initial fine of 20,000 baht (US$634) followed by a one-year jail term for repeated failure to comply.

Coronavirus: Thailand suspends visa-free policy but consulate insists Hong Kong not affected 2

“We are beginning the mandatory quarantine first with those who have health certificates from those countries,” Narumon said. “We think that with the health certificates requirement, their number would be controllable enough for the health ministry’s staff to check on them, either at the hotel or via an app.”

The confirmation comes after days of confusion about the quarantine requirement, with government agencies in Bangkok and Thai consulates overseas saying different things.


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