Medical travel to Thailand still faces many restrictions

 

The Thai cabinet has approved visas for foreign visitors to stay in the country for up to 270 days, under a special tourist visa scheme aimed at long-staying tourists who intend to travel around the country or access Thailand's healthcare facilities.

The visa will last for 90 days and can be extended twice, each for a further 90 days. The VTR Special Visa scheme will be available until 30 September 2021.

TSV travellers must travel by charter plane and every flight carrying them must receive permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or CCSA operation centres.1,200 STV travellers are expected to enter Thailand each month after the country reopens.

What may deter medical tourists is that the visa holder is subject to a 14-day quarantine at a hospital or certified alternative state quarantine hotel upon their arrival. Those seeking quick cosmetic surgery or dental care will find the rules unworkable. But for those with a serious condition requiring several treatments and recuperation, this is a new direction for Thailand. This change is in line with the move away from mass tourism to niche and higher spending tourism.

While the latest announcement is clearly a step toward opening the country, tourism and medical tourism businesses argue that the mandatory two-week quarantine has questionable appeal. Currently medical tourists are allowed in from 34 countries.

All visitors must have proof of travel health insurance that covers a minimum of US$100,000 of medical costs incurred in Thailand, including medical costs in the event that they contract COVID-19. And they must sign a letter confirming they agree to consent to Thailand’s Covid-19 measures. On arrival they must screen for Covid-19 symptoms and download an app to monitor their health.

The Thailand Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) confirms that Thailand’s medical and wellness tourism programme has been resumed with the hope of attracting medical tourists back into the country. Under the CCSA regulations, medical tourists have to arrive by air to ensure effective disease control, not via land border checkpoints.

All must have an appointment letter from a doctor in Thailand and entry certificates issued by Thai embassies across the globe.

People wanting to visit Thailand for medical procedures need to contact the Thai Embassy in their country to organise the visa and paperwork. Thailand’s major hospitals will provide potential candidates with an appointment letter.

Medical tourists will also need to produce proof that they tested negative and have been tested for Covid-19 within 72 hours of travel. Patients must undergo three separate COVID-19 screenings during their visit to Thailand. Once in Thailand they will be tested again and will be required to stay at the medical facility for at least 14 days, during which they will be able to start their chosen treatments. The quarantine location will depend on the expected duration of the medical treatment.

If treatments take less than 14 days, the remainder of their quarantine must be done at the facility where they are receiving treatment. For treatments that are over 14 days, patients can reside in an alternative hospital quarantine facility. Arrangements had been made for private and public hospitals to cater to medical tourists. However, those who test positive for COVID-19 will be treated in designated areas for foreigners at private facilities and will have to pay for their own treatment.

The CCSA states that medical procedures will only be allowed for foreigners at hospitals that have been registered to provide the treatments and have proven their ability to contain any potential outbreak. Further information of participating hospitals and information about procedures, facilities, paperwork requirements and arrival options will be provided at all Thai Embassies. Every case for medical tourists will be handled separately and there is a daily cap to the number of arrivals.

Permission for medical tourists to be accompanied by up to three attending persons is intended to allow such patients to have spouses, parents or assistants in attendance during their hospital treatment. However, such persons will have to conform to all the same entry requirements as the medical tourists themselves, including visas and health status.

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