Move to scrap the Emergency Decree and the last of the entry criteria for incoming travellers is coming at a time when the full extent of the economic damage caused by it is becoming apparent while, at the same time, Thai consumers, appear to be in a confident, upbeat mood with sales of private cars in August up by a whopping 61.72% on the year before.
Thailand is to cancel all requirements concerning the virus emergency from October 1st including those for incoming passengers as the kingdom gears up to abolish the Emergency Decree introduced at the end of March 2020. It comes with a growing realisation that lasting economic damage to the kingdom’s foreign tourism industry and the overall economy has resulted from the measure which will take at least another year just to see the country recover lost economic ground and at least another two years after that again before the kingdom has any chance of witnessing visitor numbers like that seen in 2019.
Thailand has announced that it is scrapping the last requirements for passengers entering the country related to the COVID-19 virus as the government begins winding down the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) as part of a firm proposal to abolish the country’s Emergency Decree and all its structures.
On Wednesday, General Supot Malaniyom of the National Security Council confirmed that ending the decree will be discussed at Friday’s meeting of the organisation as officials have already confirmed that from October 1st, the process of entering Thailand for all passengers will revert to the same procedure as existed in the opening months of 2020 before the emergency was declared.
Entry into Thailand for foreign travellers will be the same as existed before the start of 2020 with just a passport and immigration check-in on arrival
Specifically, this will mean passengers arriving in Thailand will not be asked for any information related to the virus including vaccine certificates or test results.
Speaking with reporters, General Supot said the move to put the emergency behind the kingdom was being driven by the urgent need to deal with the economic challenges the country is facing with the impact of international conflicts and rising geo-political tensions constraining economic growth and giving rise to inflation.
The decision to end the Emergency Decree could be taken on Friday at a meeting chaired by Acting Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.
The move was similarly confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul who said that all requirements would be set aside from October 1st and that even where passengers are detected with the disease, they will simply be advised to isolate, clean regularly and wear face masks in public.
Curiously, the minister suggested that the new regime will be implemented from October 1st until the end of September 2023.
Regime to be announced in the Royal Gazette and will see an end to random status checks at the airports
Dr Sophon Iamsirithaworn, the deputy director of the Department of Disease Control, told reporters that part of the reason for the new measures was less severe symptoms from the disease which were now similar to a common cold.
Officials are implementing a system where the virus will be closely monitored while the economy and public behaviour will be allowed to return to normal.
The new regime will be confirmed in the Royal Gazette as coming into effect on October 1st and as part of the government’s plan to be implemented over the coming year dealing with surveillance of the disease as a medical threat, forms of treatment, public relations, communication strategies with the public and management of the situation moving forward.
This will mean effectively that random checks of incoming travellers at international airports will be halted from October 1st while the government through local provincial health committees, will continue to keep the situation under review.
Concern at a lack of long-haul visitors to Thailand in recent months which has seen lower tourist spends
There are concerns about the trend in visitor numbers and patterns over the last few months within Thailand’s recovering foreign tourism industry with a lack of long-haul visitors.
One reason being put forward, apart from deteriorating economic conditions in western countries, for the trend is that western travellers are being put off by the situation in Asia where a more cautious approach is still being seen among host populations including a higher incidence of face mask wearing and travel limitations in Japan and China impeding connectivity to Thailand.
This has seen average spending per foreign tourist in Thailand drop by at least 11.5% on 2019 figures as Thailand welcomes more Asian travellers.
Economic impact of the emergency has been severe and long-lasting, it will take years to fully recover
The end of the crisis comes as the kingdom’s economy which suffered a 6.1% contraction in 2020, has yet to recover the GDP lost during the emergency with even the most optimistic scenarios suggesting it will be late next year before this occurs while it will be 2025 or beyond before the country’s foreign tourism industry achieves the number of visitors seen in 2019.
Nevertheless and even with inflation at over 7%, at this time, Thai consumers are enjoying a new sense of confidence which hit a seven-month high for August with figures released on Thursday by the Federation of Thai Industries showing domestic car sales jumped by a whopping 61.72% in August compared to the year before.
Thai economic planners are also taking some comfort from comparatively lower oil prices driven down by recession fears worldwide from a high in early June of $122 per barrel of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude to a current rate of $85 approximately although this is still higher than the average price last year at between $60 and $75.