Thailand's emergency extended as it looks to ease tourist ban

BANGKOK • Thailand will extend a state of emergency through next month as the tourism-dependent nation gears up for the reopening of borders to foreign visitors after a six-month gap, while maintaining its relative success in containing local transmission of the coronavirus.

The national Covid-19 task force chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday approved the extension of emergency rules through Oct 31, according to Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-Ngam. The panel also approved special tourist visas for foreign tourists starting next month, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said in Bangkok.

The one-month extension, when approved by the Cabinet today, would be the sixth since the initial order in March. The emergency rules allow the government to enforce mandatory quarantines and streamline disease-control plans without multiple approvals from various agencies. The measures were set to end tomorrow.

Thailand has managed to control the coronavirus outbreak quickly, and was able to gradually restart most parts of its economy since May. It has so far reported just over 3,500 cases and 59 deaths, and the majority of its recent cases were found in state quarantine.

But its economy, which is also reliant on manufacturing, is on track for its worst contraction on record as the pandemic has disrupted international trade and travel.

The first lot of foreign tourists – 150 Chinese nationals – will arrive in Phuket in a charter flight from Guangzhou on Oct 8, Mr Phiphat said. They will be followed by another Chinese group on Oct 25 and the first European visitors in early November, he said.

“Many people want to come to Thailand because we can control the outbreak well,” Mr Prayut said. “We have to reopen so the economy can go forward. If we don’t do anything, it’ll be bad all around.”

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