No compulsory quarantine of visitors to Thailand: health ministry

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The Tourism Authority of Thailand has confirmed the country could see a loss of six million visitors in 2020

The Tourism Authority of Thailand has confirmed the country could see a loss of six million visitors in 2020

Thai health authorities on Friday said they would not order the compulsory quarantine of visitors from four countries hit hard by coronavirus, as the kingdom struggles to balance health fears with the needs of its flatlining economy.

The holidays of possibly tens of thousands of people were cast into doubt on Tuesday when the health minister insisted a quarantine of all entrants from nine countries including China -- its territories of Hong Kong and Macau -- Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan, would be imposed.

On Friday health authorities spiked the plan, instead "recommending" arrivals from just four countries -- China, Iran, Italy and South Korea -- stay indoors and report to authorities for monitoring.

"We recommend home quarantine," Sukhum Kanchanapimai, from the health ministry told reporters, adding those who register with authorities will receive free food from Thailand's biggest grocery group.

All other travellers from the four countries will have to "report on their health status daily", said Tanarak Plipat of the Disease Control Department, or risk "punishment" under the law.

A British man who entered the kingdom from Hong Kong became the country's 48th confirmed case of the virus, health authorities added.

The kingdom has reported one death so far, but the number of cases detected has remained surprisingly low in a country that attracts some 40 million foreigners a year.

Speculation is pointing to a limited testing regime at a time when Thailand is determined not to frighten off tourists.

Friday's announcement, for now, ends a week-long barrage of conflicting information, which baffled holidaymakers hunting winter sun.

But the Tourism Authority of Thailand confirmed Thursday the country could see a loss of six million visitors in 2020.

As a result the country's tourist-reliant economy has hit the skids, with the impact of COVID-19 crisis hacking back at already sluggish growth forecasts to as low as two percent this year.

With exports seizing up to China and other COVID-19 hit nations, experts warn Thailand is facing a hammer blow to its economy.

The COVID-19 crisis has forced Thailand to cancel full moon beach parties, pare back its celebrations of the annual water festival next month and postpone its leg of the MotoGP until October.

While the number of detected virus cases is yet to spike, Thailand's social media is bubbling with coronavirus rumours and health safety advice.

In a Thai-style antidote to the grim warnings over a deadly virus, the BTS - Bangkok's overground train service - on Friday released a jaunty 'COVID-19: Dance Against The Virus' track.

It drew tens of thousands of likes on Facebook hours after making its debut.

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