Thailand ‘Travel Bubble’ Plan For Foreign Experts & Business Travelers Immediately Dismissed, Flight Ban Might Be Extended

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This week there have been some developments in Thailand regarding their ” Travel Bubble” project that would allow foreigners back into the country without undergoing quarantine, unfortunately for the cabinet the COVID-19 response team immediately rejected this plan.

At the same time it’s being mulled that the Civil Aviation Authority will extend their ban for the majority of foreign flights beyond June 30th.

According to media reports and voices from authorities the initiative was seeking to restart allowing business people from select countries into the country to get commerce back on it’s feet but a lack of quarantine regulations made this a no-go for the countries COVID-19 task force.

According to The Nation this matter will be revisited next week after seeking adjustments.

Despite gaining Cabinet approval, the “travel bubble” proposal was rejected by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) because the scheme does not make any provisions for a 14-day quarantine.

The drafters of the scheme decided not to include the quarantine period for fear visitors will lose their appetite for travel, though CCSA believes this will open the door to a second wave of infections.

There has not been a single new case domestically for 24 days, while those who have imported infections are being kept under state-controlled quarantine.

CCSA said it will reconsider the travel bubble scheme if related agencies come up with interesting measures, like offering visitors quarantine in hotels or villas as proposed by the Tourism Council. The council has said that a public hearing is required before these measures can be applied.

Meanwhile, Anutin Charnvirakul, Public Health Minister said Dr Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoen, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, has been appointed to come up with ideas about implementing the travel bubble scheme.

Separately, the ambassadors of Japan and Switzerland are talking to the government on how best to apply the concept of matching countries in the travel bubble, as it is based on each country’s disease control and the economy.

Each country will sign a memorandum of understanding related to the travel bubble, and the pact will be terminated if an outbreak occurs in a partner country.

This idea sounds like disaster in the making. What would constitute an ‘outbreak’ in the partner country? 1, 10 or 100 new infections?

Per the Worldometer for Covid-19 cases Switzerland had 17 newly diagnosed infections yesterday and 356 active cases. Japan still has 803 active cases (no update from yesterday).

At the same time it should be pretty clear that short term business travelers won’t travel to undergo several weeks in state quarantine, even the Bangkok hotel options that are now available to foreign work permit holders.

The Bangkok Post reports that the “Bubble” would only include ‘foreign businessmen and experts’ while tourists won’t be allowed for the time being. At the same time there will be effort undertaken to avoid tourists posing as business travelers through company registration.

Businesspeople and experts will be the first group of foreigners allowed to re-enter Thailand next month under the travel bubble model, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Friday.

Mr Anutin revealed the timetable after discussing a travel bubble with Japanese ambassador to Thailand Nishida Kazuya at Government House. …

“People should not panic because tourists will have not been allowed in yet. Businesspeople and experts will arrive first,” Mr Anutin said.

During his meeting with the Japanese ambassador, Mr Anutin said they discussed the requirement for Japanese visitors to clearly set their stay duration and whereabouts. They would not be allowed to travel in the country freely. Besides, they must have fit-to-fly health certificates and report to the companies where they would work, Mr Anutin said.

“Without a movement, the economy would stall. Covid-19 does not kill the economy but the immobility of businesspeople does… We try to start the travel bubble in July,” he said.

Mr Anutin said that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was aware of the plan and stressed that no one would be allowed to arrive in disguise of businesspeople and go on vacation in the country. …

Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said that the travel bubble started with businesspeople, skilled workers, machinery experts, foreign patients, teachers of international schools and those seeking work permits in the country.

This slowly completes the picture and sets expectations that tourists won’t be coming to Thailand anytime soon and by that I’d say at least early October (if at all in 2021 considering how things look).

I can’t same I blame Thailand in this case because life here in Bangkok is almost back to normal these days and infections at a standstill. Zero! That’s pretty amazing and even though wearing these masks in a tropical climate isn’t exactly great it’ a small price to pay. Is it worth sacrificing this by opening the borders again and let a steady stream of people in?

At least according to another piece in the Bangkok Post the incoming commercial flight ban might not end at the end of June after all. Airline executives and authorities are saying that the “ban” might be extended. It has to be said however that I don’t like this description because it isn’t a flight ban. There are plenty of international commercial flights every day going in and out of Thailand, especially Bangkok.

Some repatriate Thai people abroad and others transport cargo, then fly back with some passengers who want to leave Thailand. Airlines who operate include Air France, Eva Air, Korean Air, KLM, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and SWISS.

Conclusion

It’s no secret that the Thai economy (just like most others throughout the world) has been absolutely hammered by the lack of activity and in Thailand’s case especially tourism. If this border closure will really last another 3-6 months until substantial tourism traffic can restart again then this doesn’t bode well for those reliant on travelers, pretty much the entire hospitality industry.

Will other countries in the region reopen earlier? Bali would be one example as there were already discussions that the island really has to reopen as the economy there was devastated. But even IF they reopen where should the travelers come from? Nobody for example from Thailand is going abroad if upon return they have to go back into a strict quarantine.