Thailand to pay tourists infected and killed by SARS

BANGKOK: Tourists arriving in Thailand are to be awarded US$100,000 (RM380,000) if they become infected by the SARS virus in the kingdom and die, tourism and sports minister Sonthaya Khumplem said yesterday. 

“One hundred thousand US dollars will be paid to tourists who are infected by the virus in Thailand and die,” he told reporters. 

He was speaking after a government Cabinet meeting during which the spending of 68 million baht (RM6mil) on insurance in the event of foreigners being infected was approved. 

The insurance will cover tourists who arrive in Thailand from today for the next 180 days, Sonthaya said. 

“This measure will make tourists confident that they will not be infected by the virus here,” he added. 

Thailand has been hard-hit by the SARS outbreak. 

Weekend reports cited official figures released on Friday by Sonthaya showing that the number of tourist arrivals in Thailand had plunged 55% so far in May after a 46% fall in April. 

From Jan 1 to April 30, arrivals fell 11%, from 2.6 million to 2.3 million, they said. 

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) reportedly forecasts that arrivals for 2003 will fall by 10% from last year's 10.8 million, while the industry's revenue will drop 12% from US$7.6bil (RM28.8bil). 

TAT also warned the Thai government that the industry could face up to 200,000 job losses due to the fallout from SARS, a report here said yesterday. 

Thailand has not reported any cases of local transmission of SARS, and eight infections have been recorded here. 

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in April offered two million baht (around RM200,000) to the family of any person infected and killed by SARS. – AFP  

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