Thailand restricts visitor visas to limit virus spread

A worker disinfects a train at Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok. (AP pic)

BANGKOK: Thailand will temporarily suspend issuing visas on arrival to visitors from 19 countries and territories, including China, to contain the spread of the coronavirus, its interior minister said on Wednesday.

The suspensions were the latest measures imposed in the tourism-reliant country, which has reported 59 cases of the virus and one death so far.

Globally, over 113,000 people have been infected in over 100 countries.

“People from any country who want to come will need to apply for a visa with our embassies,” Minister of Interior Anupong Paochinda told reporters.

“Thai embassies everywhere will ensure that no sick people will travel to Thailand.”

Visa on Arrival (VoA) will be suspended for nationals of all 19 countries and territories previously eligible, including Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, India, Kazakhstan, Malta, Mexico, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, and Vanuatu, according to a list provided to reporters by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Visa exemptions will be cancelled for South Korea, Italy and Hong Kong, Anupong said.

“These measures will solve the problem of foreigners arriving from risky zones,” he said.

Anupong said he would start the process immediately but it was not immediately clear when they will be effective.

A foreign ministry official said visa applicants will need to present medical certificates and insurance as part of the screening at Thai embassies.

Last week, Thailand designated South Korea, China, Macau, Hong Kong, Italy and Iran as “dangerous communicable disease areas.”

Thai authorities urged people arriving from the six places to self-quarantine for 14 days.