Thailand gears up to reopen to medical tourists

Asian female tourist wearing mask using mobile phone searching airline flight status and sit social distancing chair in airport during coronavirus or covid-19 virus outbreak a new normal concept

Despite the recent ruckus over two imported coronavirus cases that riled up Thailand’s local population, the Thai government has confirmed it will move ahead with its planned medical and wellness tourism programme.

Stricter disease control measures will, however, be implemented, and the first batch of patients are set to arrive at the end of this month.

Thailand to welcome medical tourists from this month as part of its push to attract more high-end travellers

Currently, eligible patients are those seeking infertility treatments or plastic surgery arriving by air. They will have to produce an appointment letter with a doctor in Thailand, documentation from the Thai embassy in their country of origin, and a negative Covid test pre-travel.

They will be tested again on arrival, and before they leave Thailand. Patients may be accompanied by one to three other travellers.

As of now, 62 private and state-owned hospitals are involved in the programme. The quarantine process will be different for medical tourists, and will be primarily handled by the hospitals. A medical hub committee chaired by tourism and sports minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, who helms the project, will also oversee the setup of in-hospital quarantine facilities.

All patients will be required to complete a 14-day quarantine after their treatment, following after, they will be free to travel anywhere in Thailand. Locals tours are also being planned by the government for these tourists.

The programme is run primarily by the Thai government and hospitals. Local tour operators, hotels and hospitals that are not part of the programme will not have access to the tourists.

The Thai government announced earlier in July that 1,700 individuals from 17 countries in the Mekong region, China and the Middle East have already applied for the programme.

Medical tourism forms part of Thailand’s long-term plan to draw higher spending visitors post-Covid. Phuket has recently announced a three billion baht (US$94.6 million) plan to transform 140ha of land near Mai Khao beach, north of the airport, into a medical hub.

Thailand’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has green-lighted another four categories of foreigners that will be allowed entry into the country during phase six of its reopening in August, including Elite Visa holders, groups of medical tourists, foreign film crews, as well as convention exhibitors and co-organisers, pending cabinet approval.

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