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14,000 Thais still stranded abroad

Thais arrive back from Japan, at Suvarnabhumi airport in Samut Prakan province on Wednesday. Sick people were sent to hospital and the other returnees taken to a converted hotel-quarantine facility in Bangkok. (Photo: Varuth Hirunyatheb)

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The government is telling thousands of Thais stranded abroad to be patient, because the government must control the spread of Covid-19 to protect the majority of the people before they can return home.

Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration, said on Thursday that the government has to contain the disease and protect more than 60 million people inside the country. After that, Thais abroad could take turns coming back, he said.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand banned inbound flights until April 18 because many previous returnees were infected with Covid-19, and posed the risk of spreading the disease to local residents.

Dr Taweesin said that 12,771 Thais had returned and 14,664 others registered to return. He said 5,453 were waiting for return flights, and about 10,000 Thai citizens were in Malaysia waiting to cross the border, which was closed.

The government would have to quarantine all returnees and they would have to take turns, because the facilities could accommodate only 200 returnees a day, Dr Taweesin said.

"Everyone will be welcome, but the queue may be long. For those who can stay abroad without any trouble, please stay there longer. For those who have trouble, the government will offer financial assistance," he said.

The government was figuring out how much financial aid, as there were Thais in overseas countries and others stranded near the border, Dr Taweesin said.

"Those who have accommodation and insurance should stay there longer, because they would otherwise risk contracting the disease while queuing up at border checkpoints or boarding planes," he said.

He said returnees must have fit-to-fly health certificates and may have to undergo tests before boarding planes, like the tests conducted in Indonesia.

The government was considering sending planes to pick up ill Thai people in other countries, Dr Taweesin said.

He said the Defence Ministry had prepared 2,037 rooms for state quarantine and was finding about 1,500 more rooms. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry had prepared 460 facilities for local quarantine for more than 13,000 people.

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