Many people may wonder if our government is doing enough to protect Thailand from overseas travelers. Those who may pose a threat for further spreading of COVID-19. Some may want to know what is the latest change to the arrival procedures at the airport.
Here’s my experience flying into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport yesterday morning.
A new rule by the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) requires all Thais returning home from abroad to provide two documents, a medical certificate and an embassy certificate.
You’ll need to produce the two documents to the check-in staff before boarding. If you’re a Thai citizen, I’ve already written about them. If you’re a foreigner, you’ll need a different set of documents. They aren’t easy to get and require extensive time coordination, as they’re only valid 72 hours before your flight.
Carriers and embassies tried their best to get the passengers on the plane during this past weekend, as it was the first few days of enforcing the new rule. A Thai Airways staff I talked to mentioned that CAAT didn’t give sufficient time for travelers to prepare.
A day before getting on my flight, I had a look at the availability on Thai Airways’ website. There were almost no seats left. But on the plane, about 30% of the seats in my cabin were empty. The cabin crew told me, a lot of people could not board due to the inability to show proper documents at the check-in.
Also, at the gate, you will be given a notification from the Ministry of Public Health on the definition of “territories with disease-infected zones (DIZ)” and a T-8 form, which you have to complete before landing. You can also download and submit this form digitally through the Airports of Thailand (AOT) application.
The T-8 form is a questionnaire that asks passengers to declare their travel history and symptoms within the past two weeks.
On the way to Concourse D, before reaching immigration, you will have to pass through multiple temperature checkpoints. The first point was a simple video screening. Then you will proceed to the first of the “vetting procedures.”
The first desk verifies your place of embarkation. The staff will check if you arrived from a DIZ destination, such as China, Iran, Italy or South Korea. You must produce a boarding pass here, so do not leave it on the plane or throw it away. They will also tell you to download and install necessary applications, such as the AOT app onto your device.
The second desk will assist you in printing out the T-8 form, if you’ve submitted it digitally. The staff tried to look up my form, but failed. Many other passengers had the same issue. The lady behind the desk told me that the digitally submitted forms are valid only for 24 hours after submission, and that’s probably why they couldn’t find my form. Anyhow, they informed me it’s okay to complete the physical T-8 form.
At the third desk, medical staff (they were referred to as โต๊ะหมอ or doctor’s desk, not sure if they were qualified practitioners) will take your temperature with a thermometer gun pointing to the forehead or neck. They asked me to show my “fit-to-fly” paper. Here, they will sign off your T-8 form along with your temperature reading.
The last and final desk is the Health Control Counter. Here, you must hand over all the documents you have received thus far in your journey. For a Thai citizen, they are 1) fit-to-fly paper 2) embassy certification 3) your boarding pass 4) T-8 form that’s signed by the last desk. The staff here will ask you to confirm your place of residence in Thailand and take your phone number. They will make sure once again that you have installed the AOT app.
This counter is where you’ll be instructed on what to do. For my case, since I flew in from one of the countries that have on-going local transmissions of disease (the United Kingdom), therefore I must self-quarantine at home for 14 days. This is a “strong request” to protect yourself and others, not an order. It is up to you if you would like to follow this rule or not.
Then, you are free to move along to immigration (where biometric readers are disabled for safety) and to luggage claim.
It comes down to conscience
While many people have criticized that the government isn’t doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from oversea travelers, I believe that these procedures, when compared to many European countries, are quite rigorous.
The procedures at Suvarnabhumi Airport won’t indicate whether or not a traveler has contracted COVID-19. The airport quarantine doesn’t conduct COVID-19 swab testing on incoming passengers that don’t show symptoms. Given the cost, I can understand why.
To conclude, we have to leave it to the passengers whether they will be socially responsible and quarantine themselves.