A leading Thai doctor, who is often quoted in the news media and is well known for his regular warnings against trying to “re-open” the tourism industry, has again given stark and dire predictions against a proposal to study and change the quarantine process.
Thailand currently requires a fourteen day quarantine for all foreign visitors-in reality, a fifteen day, sixteen night quarantine as Thailand does not consider the arrival and departure day as a “day” of quarantine.
Dr. Thira Woratanarat, from the Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University and an advisor to the Ministry of Public Health, commented on his social media platforms today, December 18th, 2020, regarding the potential of lowering quarantine. This is far from the first time he has spoken against bringing in more foreign tourists as he has been a steady voice of opposition since Summer of this year along with several other members of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). This is despite the hospitality and tourism industry, which comprises a significant portion of Thailand’s GDP, pushing for relaxed restrictions, especially quarantine wise.
This comes as the CCSA has changed testing for Covid-19 in quarantine from two times to three times in what Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin says is preparation for a study to determine the possibility of lowering the number of quarantine days. The testing period would be on Day 0-1, Day 9-10 and day 13-14. This statement, however, has had multiple doctors, including Woratanarat, calling for an immediate stop to any study. They have done so several times over the past few months during similar proposals and every time have successfully stopped lowering the quarantine days.
This comes as Covid-19, despite the introduction of vaccines in early phases, remains raging in many countries around the world. Thailand is not expected to start vaccinating their population until around April, according to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan O’Cha. Dr. Thira, and other concerned doctors, are afraid that after ten months of controlling the virus spread in Thailand with almost no local cases and all business sectors open, except the foreign tourism sector, that a misstep could cause another lockdown or shutdown for several months until Thailand could vaccinate their elderly and vulnerable and that the country could not afford this, as difficult as it is to temporarily have to restrict the lucrative foreign tourism industry.
Dr. Thira also brought up the situation involving a locally spread case of Covid-19 found in Samut yesterday, in which a 67-year-old-woman who worked at a shrimp market frequented by foreign laborers tested positive for the virus without a history of local travel. Myanmar, which borders Thailand, continues to have a major outbreak of the virus and remains a significant item of concern in terms of illegal migrants possibly bringing the virus to the country.
Thira stressed that the country should put all plans of reducing quarantine or letting in more tourists to restore the hospitality industry on hold until at least March and then re-evaluate the situation around the world as vaccines take hold and countries begin to emerge from Winter which makes the Covid-19 situation significantly worse. At that point, he says, the country can possibly “put on the gas pedal” and begin to recover foreign tourism, but not before.