Thousands of holidaymakers have been forced to cancel their trips to Thailand after a sudden backflip on the country's Covid-19 vaccination requirement.
From today, January 9, Thailand will require international travellers to show proof they are fully vaccinated before arriving in the country in response to China reopening its border on Sunday.
The country's aviation regulator, The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT), said in a statement on Saturday that starting early Monday, all foreign arrivals must prove they're vaccinated or provide a letter certifying that they have recovered from Covid within six months. Unvaccinated travellers must show a medical certificate explaining why they have not received the vaccine.
The vaccination requirement was scrapped by Thailand last October but has been revived as China reopens its border following the easing of its zero-COVID policy. It's been reported that Thailand officials did not want to discriminate against Chinese arrivals so have applied the rule to all travellers worldwide.
Holidays plans thrown into chaos
The new rule however has proved problematic for some Australians who've had no choice but to cancel upcoming trips to the country.
"It thoroughly sucks big time, I was meant to go in 3 weeks, now have to cancel," one person vented on Facebook on Monday after learning of the change.
"The Thai government have discriminated against all the travelling visitors. What about the travellers that are vaccination free who have already purchased tickets to Thailand? Typical idiotic knee-jerk reaction," another fumed.
Meanwhile, a formal appeal to revise the entry measure has reportedly been sent to Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha by the Phuket Tourist Association after alleged complaints from tour operators worldwide. A letter shared by local site The Phuket News — and also by Thailand base journalist Richard Barrow — outlines concerns from tour operators in countries including Germany, England, France and Russia.
"The Phuket Tourist Association has received contact and coordination from guided tour operators in many countries, in which all companies have shown the utmost concern regarding the changes to the entry policy", the letter said, according to the translation by Phuket News.
In Germany alone, thousands of bookings were allegedly cancelled since the announcement was made. Meanwhile, tour operators in England reportedly complained about the lack of notice given before introducing the rule and claimed some passengers were refused onto the plane at the airport.
Journalist Richard Barrow said "about 15 tourists on [a] Turkish Airlines TK64 flight that left Istanbul last night were refused boarding" and said they weren't aware of the sudden change.
Tour operators in Scandanavia and France were also dissatisfied with the change and said they were unable to notify customers in time. A large number of people in Russia are also said to have booked a trip to Thailand without being vaccinated.
Many reportedly noted their refund policies did not cover changes to vaccination mandates, with some operators now scrambling to find ways to refund customers.
Airlines responsible for checking documents
At this stage, the new measure will remain in effect at least until the end of January, CAAT said. Airlines would be responsible for checking documents before passengers board. Qantas has already updated information on their website effective from January 9 to say "passengers who are not vaccinated must have a letter from their doctor".
On Twitter on Monday, Mr Barrow said "some airlines are not asking for documents" according to first-hand accounts.
"Others are being very strict such as refusing boarding to vaccinated people who didn’t have their certificate on them," he added.
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