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Drop the scams on foreign visitors

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) as well as the public health and foreign ministries must do more to ensure visitors enjoy a safe and smooth entry under the Thailand Pass scheme.

The programme, which replaced the certificate of entry (CoE) early this month when the country reopened to visitors, is meant to make the arrival process simpler and easier.

Yet it comes with multiple conditions and boxes to check, even though this makes sense as a necessary step to keep the risk of new infections to a minimum.

To qualify for the Thailand Pass, visitors must have been fully vaccinated, present a clean RT-PCR test taken no longer than 72 hours before they board their flight, and have US$50,000 (1.6 million baht) health insurance coverage.

Meanwhile, visitors from 61 countries and two territories can apply for the “Test and Go” programme. For this option, they must prebook a limousine service from the airport directly to their hotel, where they must be tested for Covid-19 immediately.

If the result is negative, they will be allowed to leave their hotel.

With many parties to coordinate and details to keep track of, however, the scheme ran into several problems right after it was launched.

One of these related to what kind of insurance was considered acceptable. It was unclear to many tourists if they could use a general health insurance policy or required one especially for Covid-19. There were also a litany of complaints about the approval time taking too

To its credit, the CCSA and other authorities did not feign ignorance of such criticism. The centre notified the public that the relevant parties were working hard to fine-tune the scheme.

The latest flaw to have rocked the scheme is the attempt by some hotels to deceive visitors by only offering a room reservation without the required airport transfer or Covid-19 test.

Those who fell for this incomplete offering were either denied entry or compelled to buy a whole new package on arrival, CCSA spokeswoman Apisamai Srirangson revealed. Some did not receive a refund, she added.

The spokeswoman said that since the authorities had informed hotel booking websites in advance of the compulsory conditions, and told them that people who did not pay for the limousine service and Covid-19 test would be denied entry, this could be classified as fraud.

So while the CCSA has upheld part of its service in keeping people informed, the effort would appear to have fallen short in this case.

Having been made aware that the Thailand Pass services are far from perfect, the CCSA, together with other agencies concerned, must make a more concerted effort to improve them.

Instead of just pointing out these problems, the CCSA needs to take concrete action to rid the system of scam hotels or booking websites.

The Thailand Pass system has been encumbered by too many conditions already. While people understand that these are necessary to ensure everyone’s safety, the authorities must not add any more of a burden to visitors.

Warning the public and prospective inbound travellers that there are scammers out there is only one part of their official duties.

To fulfil their mandate, they must do whatever it takes to stop unaware visitors from being duped.

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