SAMUT PRAKAN, Thailand (Reuters) – Thailand's main international airport released rapid coronavirus tests for some overseas arrivals on Friday after partially lifting a three-month ban on foreign visitors this month.
A doctor and medical personnel wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) demonstrate the laboratory process in the COVID-19 test laboratory at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Thailand, June 3, 2020. REUTERS / Athit Perawongmetha
All foreigners except those with work permits have been banned since March, but after more than five weeks without recorded transmission of the virus by the community, Thailand allowed in some groups of foreigners.
Business travelers, diplomats and government guests staying less than 14 days are considered "fast-track travelers" who are tested for the disease at Suvarnabhumi Airport to ensure that they are free of infection before entering.
"The test itself takes about an hour and a half," said Suwich Thammapalo, an officer in the Thai Department of Disease Control, adding that its use could be expanded to other arrivals and tourists in the future.
The airport test, which costs 3,000 baht (£ 77.15) each, is a prerequisite for quick entry without spending 14 days in quarantine and is required by other foreigners who have recently been admitted, residents or family members in Country. as well as international students.
Around 1,700 foreigners have applied for medical treatment such as cosmetic surgery or fertility treatment in Thailand after a ban on medical tourism was lifted this month, said Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the task force for the disease.
The government is considering a plan to open more international trips with some countries in September with a "travel bubble" agreement, he added.
Due to the pandemic, Thailand is expected to attract a maximum of 8 million foreign tourists this year, an 80% decrease from the previous year, the Thai Tourism Council estimates, although the sector is expected to recover in 2021.
Last year, 39.8 million foreign tourists spent around 11% of GDP.
(Interactive graphical tracking of coronavirus distribution worldwide: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)
Reporting by Jiraporn Kuhakan, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Panu Wongcha-um; Edited by Clarence Fernandez
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