Thailand has reopened its borders to some vaccinated tourists from over 60 nations, following the death of a Japanese man infected with bird flu. On Tuesday, Thailand’s Ministry of Health confirmed that the country will permit travelers who have been inoculated against H5N1 avian influenza. The news follows a statement by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej stating that many countries were willing to send in medical teams and provide assistance. Now with vaccinations at hand, I can assure you there will be no problem, Sundaravej said. I think the visitors, most of them tourists, will come back. The number of foreign visitors to Thailand declined following the recent bird flu outbreaks and concerns about the safety of food and water supplies.
The borders will be open to people from 60 countries where avian influenza has not been reported or confirmed, Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai said in a press conference. The country is reportedly allowing small planes carrying medical workers and equipment to cross its border. The World Health Organization has said it will send a team of inspectors to Thailand as soon as the country reopens its borders, reports USA Today.
In December 2006 the Thai Government decided that no one from infected countries would be allowed into Thailand for any reason, including those who had been vaccinated. According to the website of the Centers for Disease Control, CDC vaccination is not required before entering Thailand.
Thailand’s ban on tourists from flu-stricken nations has been lifted. The move comes following mounting criticism that the policy was hampering tourism in the Southeast Asian nation which relies heavily on foreign visitors. We are lifting it today with immediate effect, Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram told Reuters.
He said the government also decided to lift a ban on housing foreign workers in accommodation mostly used by Thai citizens. It’s good for tourism and Thailand isn’t an island, he added. Once the country was seen as a risk for bird flu, but that has now changed, he said. Many foreign governments were willing to provide medical teams and assistance, he added.
On 20 December 2006 Thailand’s Ministry of Health announced that it would no longer allow any tourists into the country, regardless of whether they had proof of vaccination against avian influenza. The decision came following confirmation of H5N1 cases among foreign visitors to Thailand. Since then, several countries have criticized the policy, saying it was hampering tourism.
On 28 December 2006 Thai authorities ordered tourists who had arrived in Bangkok on flights from China and Hong Kong to be isolated after a resident of one of these countries died from bird flu – the first case in Asia outside of Indonesia. The airport measures were lifted two days later.
On 15 January 2007 Thailand confirmed its first case of H5N1 outside Bangkok, in the northern province of Chiang Mai. The country has now reported 44 cases with 33 deaths – although many suspect that unreported cases probably occurred among migrant workers who returned to their villages after falling ill.