It has been proposed that the Thailand Pass system used to facilitate entry into the Kingdom be scrapped for Thai Nationals First. Any Expat inside of Thailand will not be surprised to learn that this proposal was put forward by the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul. The Minister stated on May 5th that he proposes dropping the Thailand Pass requirement for Thai Nationals as a first step, with foreigners possibly included at a later date. So is the Thailand Pass Ending for Thai Nationals First. Well maybe.
If they do decide to eliminate it for Thai Nationals, then it will be relatively painless for them.
The Reason for Thailand Pass
From what I can tell the Thailand Pass system was set up to check people returning to Thailand.
The Government wanted to be sure nobody with Covid-19 was allowed into the Kingdom, the same as every government around the world.
The Thailand Pass was a good way to monitor who was arriving and initially where they were going. – They no longer require the MorChana app to be installed on your phone.
- Did they have vaccinations for Covid-19?
- Did they have insurance to cover quarantine costs, if needed?
- Do we know where they are going?
- Can we monitor them while they are here?
Before the pandemic, Thailand was set to welcome over 40,000,000 tourists per year to its shores.
Yes, that is 40 million people arriving in the Kingdom per year. That is a lot of people to take care of and Thailand was doing a good job of it.
The Main Problem
There were minor problems. Some tourists would arrive in the Kingdom with no health insurance, and were treated and then left bills that had to be paid. The numbers of tourists without insurance were not large. But the issue was not the numbers, the issue was the unpaid bills.
Even one-half of a percent of 40- million is 200,000 people. Those numbers can add up fast.
Any unpaid bill meant there was less money for the national healthcare system, and or was a loss for the private hospitals. This could not continue.
Pre-pandemic a proposal was floated about for each traveler entering the kingdom to pay a 300 baht “insurance” fee that would be used to take care of these unpaid bills and the remaining money to be used to improve tourist sites.
I am sure you can see the problem here. (40,000,000 x 300 = 12,000,000,000 baht) or $352,941,176 USD – yes almost 353 million dollars every year.
Almost a million US per day. That is a lot of money for insurance.
Who would be responsible?
The original plan from the government was for the airlines to tack the 300 baht onto every ticket and then for the airlines to transfer the funds to the government. This would be the simplest method, as it would be included in the fare. But the airlines raised questions.
- Who was exempt?
- Who must pay?
- Who made the decision on exempt or pay?
- Who would the money go to?
- What about travelers who came via land or sea?
Trying to collect 300 baht from every incoming traveler would be a logistical nightmare.
- Who would handle the money?
- Who would be exempt, and who would have to pay?
- How much would this delay incoming passengers?
- Approximately 110,000 passengers/day (110,000 x 300 = 33,000,000 – 33 million THB ~$970,588 USD/day)
- That is a lot of money to have at the airport every day
- What if nobody had exact change?
Then the Pandemic Happened
With Covid-19 there were no travelers and no need for the 300 baht fee. But the government is still looking for a way to implement this fee. (I mean we are talking a million USD a day here). I am sure people are salivating just thinking about it.
The Thailand Pass System
So Thailand Pass was set up to:
- Make sure tourists do not have Covid-19.
- Make sure they were Vaccinated, or if un-vaccinated they would go into quarantine.
- Make sure they all have Insurance to cover any illness, but especially Covid-19 and any quarantine stay.
This has temporarily alleviated the 300 baht landing fee.
Earlier this year, the government was talking about the 300 baht fee again, but they have not figured out how to implement it yet.
As of May 5th, the landing fee has been delayed again until later in the year.
The Biggest Problem
So the biggest problem is to ensure that there is insurance for foreigners. Thailand wants to make sure that any foreigner arriving in the Kingdom has insurance coverage. This has worked well since the re-opening, by using the Thailand Pass system to ensure among other things that every traveler has insurance.
The average foreign traveler is not worried about paying for insurance to travel. For those who do not want to pay, for insurance, Thailand is not worried about them.
Currently in the Kingdom
Unless someone has severe symptoms of Covid-19, the current recommendation, for anyone who catches Covid-19, is to quarantine at home for ~5 days. Medicines are available for the hospitals if requested.
If Covid-19 patients do have severe symptoms then hospitalization is recommended. The current mortality rate for Covid-19 is declining, and the number of new Covid-19 cases every day is also declining. The occupancy rate in the hospitals is around 20%, and the infection rate among international arrivals is 0.001%. Thailand is working towards declaring Covid-19 endemic. Once that happens, hopefully, all restrictions on entry will go away.
Thai Nationals are already covered under the Thai health care system and do not have to purchase insurance to travel here. So they were never an issue.
The announcement that Thailand Pass is ending for Thai Nationals should not be a difficult decision to make.
Ending the Thailand Pass system for Thai Nationals is a painless one. Thai Nationals are already covered under the Thai National Health care system and Thai Nationals were never required to have Covid-19 Insurance. Covid-19 is in decline inside the Kingdom at present and the mortality rate is declining. In addition, the hospital occupancy is around 20% and there are enough medicines for the population.
If it can be said – the situation is somewhat stable here in Thailand.
For Foreigners, I believe that the Thailand Pass enables the Thai Government to ensure that foreigners have health insurance before coming to Thailand. This is a win-win for Thailand. I do not believe the Thai Government is in any hurry to eliminate the Thailand Pass for foreigners. Thailand Pass ensures the government is not liable for any more health bills, nor do they have to worry about taking care of quarantine costs. I could be wrong, but I do not think so.