Extended visas to boost tourism

Foreigners will get 45 days from October 1

Visitors are at immigration checkpoints at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Samut Prakan province. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has approved longer visas for foreign visitors to the country from October 1 to March 31 as part of efforts to revitalize the economy as the pandemic is being reduced, the agency said Friday.

Those on regular visas will be allowed to stay for 45 days, up from the current 30, while the visa-on-arrival scheme will be extended from 15 to 30 days, CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin said.

“We are looking to extend their stay as this will help boost tourism spending, revive the economy and reduce the impact of the pandemic,” Dr Taweesilp said.

The Ministry of Tourism and Sports has projected that the number of foreign travelers will reach 10 million this year. From January 1 to August 16, more than 4 million foreign tourists visited Thailand, he said.

Dr Taweesilp said the government will declare Covid-19 endemic in October and the CCSA will then cease to be the lead agency dealing with the disease.

He said that from October the disease will be under the emergency operations center of the Ministry of Public Health and the provincial communicable disease committees.

From November, the national and provincial committees will be the only bodies that will deal with it. Infected people will be isolated according to Department of Medical Services guidelines, he said.

Infected people would be isolated in accordance with Department of Medical Services guidelines, Dr Taweesilp noted.

The decision to declare the disease endemic was based on the relatively limited number of severe cases and related fatalities.

“The aim is for people to be able to live safely with Covid-19 and live a normal life,” said Dr Taweesilp.

The current situation of Covid-19 is at the green level, with 2,000-3,999 hospitalized patients and 11-39 deaths per day and 201-399 hospitalized patients dependent on ventilators, while the infection clusters are limited, he said.

The numbers are not high, but new cases are increasing due to the spread of the BA.5 subvariant of the Omicron strain. “The disease has subsided,” Dr Taweesilp said.

Surveys in April and May showed that more than 90% of people had antibodies to the virus, while other studies have found that three shots of any Covid-19 vaccine reduce the chance of serious illness and death in more than 90%, he added.

The incidence of Covid-19 would be similar to that of the flu and there will be new cases throughout the year, he noted.

He said on Friday the CCSA did not consider whether the state of emergency would be lifted in conjunction with the Covid-19 downgrade.

Speaking after chairing the CCSA meeting on Friday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the agency has not yet considered scrapping the emergency decree imposed to curb the pandemic.

“This [the decree] it is still necessary to integrate the operations of various agencies. The decree is not intended for other purposes. It is only meant to ensure that the public is safe from Covid-19,” General Prayut said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Don Pramudwinai said the CCSA did not discuss the uprising. Asked if it would be held until the Apec meeting in Bangkok in November, Don said that even if it were, there should be no problem as several foreign agencies have met in Thailand with your place

Asked if the decree would affect the country’s image ahead of the Apec meeting, he said no protests would create the best climate.

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