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International flight talks resume as “travel bubble” debate rages on

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Ken Yam on Unsplash

“There must be thorough discussions, which may continue into next month.”

As the Thai government mulls the possibility of “travel bubbles” with countries where Covid-19 appears under control, aviation representatives are talking with commercial airlines about a potential return to international services. Limited domestic flights have been operating again since May, with the exception of Phuket, which resumed its domestic services last Saturday, but to only a few destinations at this stage.

A report in the Chiang Rai Times says Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports are currently receiving a combined total of approximately 17,000 passengers a day. Now the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand is in talks with airlines about a potential resumption of international flights, with new health and safety regulations.

However, agreement on just who might be permitted to travel has yet to be reached, with health officials debating the safety of “travel bubbles” with lawmakers. What does seem clear is that the first international visitors to Thailand are unlikely to be tourists. Aside from the current ongoing repatriation flights for Thai citizens and foreign work permit holders, there is much talk about prioritising those invited here on business, and those coming for medical treatment.

The secretary-general of Thailand’s National Security Council, General Somsak Roongsita, says no decision has yet been made on how travel bubbles would work, adding that public health must take precedence over tourism for now.

“Many countries have approached us for travel pairing, but Thailand must prioritise public health. Measures to control Covid-19 in those countries will be studied. There must be thorough discussions, which may continue into next month.”

The government says it will take a number of factors into account, including revenue generated, the risks of infected visitors and the reaction of local people to foreigners being allowed into the country once more. There is also concern that those coming on business or for medical treatment would not be required to fulfill the mandatory quarantine currently required of repatriated Thais and work permit holders, leading to resentment from the latter group.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

 

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