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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand to screen all airline passengers from China for coronavirus

Jack Burton



PHOTO: Chinese passengers traelling en masse wearing sugical mask - The Chiang Rai Times

Beginning yesterday, all airline passenger arrivals from China, regardless of their point of origin, are being screened for the Wuhan Coronavirus when entering Thailand. Health officials announced the measure after six more Chinese visitors were diagnosed with the virus, bringing the total in Thailand to 14 cases.

The death toll from the outbreak now stands at 131 (as of Wednesday morning), all in China. Thailand has the second largest number of cases outside China, though it pales in comparison with the 5,494 infections officially reported in China (as of Wednesday morning).

Five of Thailand’s new cases, aged between six and 70, come from China’s Hubei province. According to Reuters, they belong to the same family. The sixth is from Chongqing in southwestern China.

Thailand to screen all airline passengers from China for coronavirus | News by Thaiger

PHOTO: Health officials show off screening equipment at Bangkok’s Suvarnbhumi airport – The Chiang Rai Times

One passenger from among the family of seven traveling together was taken to hospital after showing symptoms of the virus on arrival. The other four were quarantined after showing symptoms following monitoring.

Sukhum Kanchanapimai, the health ministry’s permanent secretary, told a news conference yesterday…

“Now we will expand screening to all Chinese from China and prepare equipment to screen 100% of people for the virus.”

Thailand had earlier screened passengers only from China’s central city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus outbreak, but flights from that city and nine others in the province have been discontinued while the cities remain on lockdown. Passengers from the southern city of Guangzhou, bordering Hong Kong, and the northeastern city Changchun are being screened across five Thai airports, including Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok to those at Chiang Mai, Don Mueng, Phuket and Krabi.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) says it expects the number of Chinese tourists to fall by at least 2 million to less than 9 million this year, due to the outbreak. But the eventual fallout on the Thai tourism industry remains as unpredictable today as the spread of the virus.

Tourism has been hit hard by China’s ban on group tours, as China is Thailand’s biggest source of visitors, by far. Reduced travel from China could result in 50 billion baht (1.52 billion US dollars) of lost tourism revenue, the ministry estimates. TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn says the agency will propose measures to help the industry.

Thai hotels are preparing for another slump in bookings as Chinese packaged tours make up 60% of all Chinese visitors to Thailand.

Thailand to screen all airline passengers from China for coronavirus | News by Thaiger

PHOTO: The Chiang Rai Times

Another collapse in travellers may come from the meetings, incentives, conferences and also events (MICE) sector, which draws a large portion of its revenue from overseas participants. The president of the Thai Hotels Association (THA), said that before the outbreak, Thailand’s hotels averaged 50% occupancy, of which Chinese guests comprised as much as half, as the peak season for this market got under way. The THA expects advance bookings for February to plunge 30% as the health emergency’s impact spreads to independent travellers and MICE groups.

“The impact was felt across the country, as Chinese guests are the main source market for most hotels. Usually occupancy in February is strengthened by incentive groups. However this market is uncertain too.”

The THA expects the setback to last at least three months, the Bangkok Post reports. A source from the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau said the agency is awaiting confirmation from three incentive groups from China totaling 5,500 travellers, who may yet cancel trips.

SOURCE: The Chiang Rai Times


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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