BANGKOK: Thai nationals in the UK and European countries are having difficulty obtaining the medical certification stipulated by the Civil Aviation Authority for flights to Thailand from the weekend. Nor can they arrange the health insurance cover also required. Meanwhile, there are growing calls for the country to be placed in lockdown bringing an end to the confusion.
Thai nationals in the UK and Europe are up in arms over the new travel restrictions which come into force next Saturday and Sunday for all flights originating anywhere in the world to Thailand. The ‘double burden’ over medical certification and health insurance coverage in respect of the virus, as it was termed on Friday by one upset Thai mother whose student daughter is planning to return home next week, has led to officials in Bangkok meeting to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, with 50 new cases announced today and an escalation of infections, there are growing calls for an urgent lockdown of the kingdom as the public watches what has happened in mainland Europe.
There are a rising number of complaints to Thai embassies and consular offices in Europe over the proposed new measures to take effect on Saturday for high-risk countries and after Sunday, for all countries impacting everyone flying to Thailand.
The measures were announced by the Governor of the Civil Aviation Authority, Chula Sukmanop, on Wednesday.
The measure was expanded to all countries based on a statement from the prime minister on Thursday.
Airlines must have sight of medical certs and health insurance cover of $100,000 in respect of the virus
The new requirements mean airlines must have sight of medical certificates stating that passengers are free of the Covid 19 virus and have health coverage for $100,000 specifically for the disease.
The measures apply to Thai as well as foreign travellers entering Thailand.
However, some weeks ago, officials in Bangkok clarified that it was not possible to enforce a health insurance requirement for Thai nationals in respect of South Korea after many Thai passengers were turned away at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport.
1,200 complaints so far at the Thai UK Embassy
For now, it is the medical certificate requirement that is occupying the minds of Thai returnees abroad. The Thai embassy in London has recorded, so far, over 1,200 complaints about the matter.
The confirmed orders specify a medical certificate which states that the passenger poses ‘no risk of being infected by the Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19)’.
This poses two insurmountable problems for people who have already booked their flights.
Doctors not in a position to issue medical certs
The first is that many doctors in the UK or European countries based on professionalism and ethics, cannot give such an assurance.
Many professionals in these countries live in fear of legal suits with rising medical malpractice insurance costs being one of the greatest concerns for working doctors.
Emergency health situation in the UK and Europe
The second is that in this current state of emergency throughout the health services in Europe and the United Kingdom, it is very difficult and expensive to arrange for an appointment with a doctor to get such a certificate. Not to mention the health risk involved.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok is aware of the problems being experienced in the UK and Europe
A spokesman for Thailand’s Foreign Ministry has confirmed that the message has been heard.
Cherdkiat Atthakor, a spokesman for the ministry, said he was aware of the problem people are experiencing obtaining medical certificates in Europe and that the issues raised were being discussed by relevant state agencies involved.
He also indicated that embassies and consulates would try to assist Thai nationals to deal with the matter and will remain in contact.
Mother of 20-year old Thai student in Plymouth vents her frustration at ‘double burden’ rules being applied
One of the travellers stranded is a 20-year-old Thai student returning home from Plymouth. She has been booked on a flight for Friday, March 27th.
Her mother explained the conundrum.
‘What are these requirements for? It’s impossible to get only a health certificate. The requirement for the embassy letter is a double burden.’
She explained that she was also told that the medical certificate cannot be issued by the Thai Embassy in London without sight of the health coverage.
Changes emerging from Bangkok for Thai nationals
However, this has now been clarified by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand which has juts issued a briefing document stating that a letter from the Thai Embassy is simply required stating that the passenger is a Thai national. This will mean a waiver on the health insurance requirement.
There were also reports emerging on Friday afternoon that Thai officials are suggesting that medical report from a Thai doctor will be sufficient for Thai passengers. However, it is not clear how this can be implemented through the airlines without some other waiver of the provisions.
There are no relaxations for foreign travellers as foreign embassies and ministries are now issuing urgent travel advisories in relation to Thailand.
Foreign embassy staff critical of the restrictive, impractical provisions and orders announced
An unidentified Thai diplomat, working in Europe, was also highly critical of the government’s orders.
Speaking to the Bangkok Post on Friday, he expanded on the situation: ‘In many countries in Europe, medical appointments must be made in advance in the health system. For private clinics, also, the patients must be referred by a doctor in a hospital.’
He warned that this process posed tremendous difficulties to travellers during what is a heightened emergency in Europe where infections and indeed deaths from the virus are skyrocketing.
‘Nobody will accept appointments for medical check-ups,’ he said.
50 new infections on Friday
Meanwhile, Thailand has announced another 50 infections on Friday, many of them linked to foreign visitors and travellers coming from outside the kingdom.
A briefing was given by Dr Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, the Director-General of the Disease Control Department.
Former parliamentary speakers call for a limited lockdown halting all arrivals into Thailand
The current situation is drawing calls for the government to place the kingdom in lockdown by restricting personal movement and halting all flights into the country.
A more limited proposal was presented to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Thai Parliament, Chuan Leekpai, on Friday by two former speakers of the Senate, Suchon Chaleekrua and Nikhom Wairatpanich.
The Speaker promised to forward it to Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan ocha.
Parliament should discuss the virus situation and measures required as a critical point approaches
The veteran parliamentarians also called for more involvement of the body in deliberations on the virus.
The proposals presented to the speaker came from a meeting of no less than six former speakers of both houses of parliament who met to discuss the crisis which is now reaching a critical point.
The proposal made by the former parliamentary leaders would see all inbound traffic to Thailand halted meaning the closure of Thailand’s borders except for the shipping of goods and freight.
They have stopped short of calling for restrictions on internal movement or non-essential business and personal lockdowns such as we have seen in Europe and indeed China.
Some experts are suggesting that only such draconian measures can work and that they must be for at least a three to four week period.
Civic groups call for a far more robust approach from the government calling for a state of emergency
On Thursday, an array of 48 civic groups addressed the government. They called for a ramping up if measures to a Phase 3 response now.
They also wanted to see the government ensure a quick response to treat and isolate those infected amid reports, even now, of limited health system resources and beds being available.
The group called for all entry to and departures from the kingdom to be suspended for three weeks and for the government to declare a state of emergency. This would limit public gatherings to not more than 5 people.
Country should be placed on a war footing
They want to see the government focus on sourcing supplies and readying facilities to put the country on a war footing against the disease outbreak which leading doctors have said is now certain to develop into a widespread transmission situation.
Given the rising number of infections with record numbers announced on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, the situation may already be materialising.