Thailand shuts doors to foreigners in bid to stem outbreak

Photo: David Spinks / Flickr
Photo: David Spinks / Flickr

Most foreigners will be barred from entering Thailand when a state of emergency comes into effect tonight.

The move was among several measures to be implemented starting at midnight tonight and announced by Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam late Wednesday afternoon, just hours before the emergency decree comes into effect. It applies to all ports of entry – land, air or sea – with limited exceptions for the likes of diplomats.

Public assembly of large groups is forbidden, as is news coverage the government deems untrue, incites panic or threatens national security. Elderly Thais are instructed to stay home except for essential trips such as to see a doctor or buy food.

Though discouraged, travel will not be shut down between the provinces, and those who do face possible tracking. The governors of each province will be able to order any areas closed as needed.

There was no mention of a curfew, which many have speculated about since Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha announced yesterday that his government would invoke the emergency. It gives him the power to do things such as enact curfews, limit travel and censor the media. It will remain in effect through the end of April.

Though COVID-19 infections are spreading actively within the kingdom, the travel ban is intended to stop new cases from being imported. While other governments in the region were quick to limit travel and many have already gone as far as barring entry to all foreigners, Thailand chose to put few restrictions in place until recently. It includes the following exceptions:

  • Thais returning from abroad with “fit-to-fly” health certificates. Those without must contact their nearest Thai embassy or consulate.
  • Foreigners possessing valid work permits.
  • Diplomats, international affairs employees and their families
  • Logistics staff who enter Thailand to carry cargo, though they must depart as soon as their work is complete.
  • Anyone the prime minister deems necessary to deal with the crisis.

Thailand on Tuesday reported an additional 107 COVID-19 cases, raising its tally to 934 since January. Four deaths have been announced.

Thailand declares state of emergency granting gov’t broad powers

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