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Thailand needs to attract foreign tourists and have a welcoming disease control system in place, said Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday.
Foreign visitors returning would start with only a limited number of arrivals, testing the country's disease control measures, which would be comprehensive, he said. He sought to allay concerns that tourists might bring a new wave of coronavirus disease with them. "Flights must be traceable. When they reach their destinations, their location will have to be confirmed and isolated from others," said the prime minister.
Prayut said the return of tourists to the country is vital. "Things will get worse if nothing is done. Premises will be shut down. Employees will be laid off. How can the government afford to help them all?" he said.
He gave an assurance that visitors would be monitored, and said he hoped local people would welcome them back. "Local people will have to take care [of the visitors] because the benefits will go to them, not the government," Prayut said. "Please rest assured that we'll be able to contain it if [the disease] is detected," he said.
Areas in need of urgent relief will be prioritised, he said. For example, he mentioned Phuket resort island where local opinion is split over a proposal to let foreign tourists in. He said small groups of tourists will be allowed to come in under a pilot project. Hotel operators in Phuket are trying to alleviate local concerns by insisting on strict rules for villa quarantines while not allowing the free travel of foreign tourists.
There are currently only two alternative state quarantine (ASQ) hotels in the province but 56 more have been applied and await inspection and approval. But some rules in Phuket's villa quarantine scheme have been relaxed, such as allowing guests who tested negative to sunbathe on the hotel beach under social distancing rules during the first five days.