March 11, 2020 / 7:26 AM / a month ago

Thailand restricts visitor visas to limit virus spread

BANGKOK (Reuters) - 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.

A waiter works in a beach with a few Western tourists, which is usually full of Chinese tourists, amid fear of coronavirus in Phuket, Thailand March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

The suspensions were the latest measures imposed in the tourism-reliant Southeast Asian 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.

However, Russian passport holders will not be affected by the suspension of the visa on arrival from Russia, as they can still travel to Thailand and stay for 30 days under a visa waiver agreement, an official at the ministry told Reuters.

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.

Chatree Atchananant, director-general of the foreign ministry’s Consular Affairs Department, 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, Macao, 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.

Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Kim Coghill, William Maclean

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