On Wednesday, March 11, the Thai government announced that it will be suspending Visa on Arrival (VOA) for nationals of 19 countries, including Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, and Vanuatu, due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Previously, nationals of these 18 countries could use their passports or travel documents to apply for VOA at Thai immigration checkpoints. In addition, visa exemptions for South Korea, Italy, and Hong Kong will also be cancelled. Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda said that all arrivals from the aforementioned countries will need to apply for a visa at a Thai embassy or consulate and obtain a medical certificate to show that they are not infected with the virus prior to arrival in Thailand.
Authorities have confirmed on Wednesday that two immigration officers at Bangkok's Survarnabhumi Airport have been infected with COVID-19 possibly after coming into contact and handling the passports of visitors to Thailand.
Meanwhile, Thai Airways announced on Wednesday that it will be temporarily canceling flights to Italy until the end of March. Flights to Rome will be cancelled from Sunday, March 15, and flights to Milan will be cancelled from Friday, March 13. Flights to several other destinations including Malaysia, Denmark, Sweden, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India, have also been affected by cancelations. Thai Airways passengers traveling from Rome and Milan in Italy; Seoul and Busan in South Korea; Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou in China; Hong Kong and Macau will be required to show a medical certificate to show that they are not infected by the virus prior to boarding pass issuance.
To date, the Ministry of Public Health has confirmed 70 cases of the virus nationwide, including one fatality and 35 recoveries. Further international spread of the virus is expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care urgently and share your previous travel history with your health care provider.
Travelers returning from China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran who develop symptoms of pneumonia are advised to call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.