More agile Covid curbs are needed – Natural Self Esteem

Reports that the government is considering scrapping the Thailand passport for locals re-entering the country are welcome news as it lifts yet another travel restriction.

Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Thursday the ministry will ask the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), which makes decisions on easing coronavirus restrictions, to consider lifting the Thailand passport requirement for locals.

Mr Anutin said the Thailand passport may no longer be needed once the pandemic has been downgraded to an endemic disease.

As a result, Thai students, workers and entrepreneurs abroad can expect fewer bureaucratic hurdles before returning home, making entry easier for them.

But it remains a mystery why the government, which has been desperate to revive tourism, has not included foreign visitors – particularly those who are fully vaccinated – in that plan. The tourism industry has constantly urged the authority to remove the Thailand Passport.

The Thailand Passport System is a platform launched last year for visitors and travelers to complete the required immigration forms. The system is intended to collect vaccination and travel data for the necessary paperwork via an online platform.

However, the process of issuing the passport has been criticized as being time-consuming and also a factor discouraging travel, particularly short-stay group travel.

The system itself was time consuming and daunting. After registering online, visitors need to wait a few days for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to approve and send out the QR codes for visitors.

Questions have been raised about the practicality of the Thailand Passport.

So far, the CCSA has eased many travel restrictions, e.g. B. Lifting mandatory quarantine and some mandatory RT-PCR testing for fully vaccinated visitors.

Easier entry requirements have helped boost tourism. The country welcomed 19,727 tourists on May 1, followed by 15,439 tourists and 14,108 tourists on May 2 and 3, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

Those numbers improved from around 10,000 to 12,000 arrivals a day last month as vaccinated tourists are no longer required to provide Covid test results.

But the country needs to relax travel restrictions even further. The government and TAT have to keep in mind that neighboring countries in the region compete for tourists.

Clear examples are Malaysia and Singapore. Singapore eased entry restrictions in April. Under the relaxed restrictions, travelers only need to pre-register online and download a tracing app a few days before entering the country.

Malaysia this month scrapped Covid-19 testing for all inbound travelers who are fully vaccinated or under the age of 12, making it optional to wear masks outdoors and check-in before entering various premises. Travel insurance is no longer mandatory for travelers entering the country.

Thai authorities appear to be behind the game. For Thailand, foreign tourists, even if fully vaccinated, are still required to provide proof of insurance worth at least $10,000 from an approved provider list.

However, despite the easing of entry requirements earlier this month, the Thailand Passport remains valid for everyone. For now, whether travelers are vaccinated or not, everyone entering the country must have a QR code for the system to show officials, making the entry process tedious.

The government, especially the CCSA, must accept the reality that the Covid situation no longer requires strict border controls as in previous years.

The number of Covid cases has fallen and most of the patients are local people, especially unvaccinated elders and risk groups, not foreign tourists.

However, lifting restrictions does not mean lowering vigilance. Instead of sticking to inconvenient entry requirements, the government should have used digital innovations like a digital vaccination card and tracing apps to offer visitors more convenience.

The updated Mor Chana mobile app helps track travelers who have entered the kingdom, but authorities have neglected to publicize them.

Reports emerged in November of authorities spending days searching for 272 travelers from eight Covid-prone countries in southern Africa who had entered the country.

Over Christmas there was a report from the authority calling the police in a frantic search for a tourist who had evaded Covid-19 regulations.

Both the government and the CCSA need to be more agile and introduce new innovations for Covid measures to ease travel restrictions. Sticking to the same old inconvenient entry rules as the Thailand passport can hamper Thailand’s tourism competitiveness.

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