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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Airlines temporarily suspend flights to China

Jack Burton

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Airlines temporarily suspend flights to China | The Thaiger
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British Airways is suspending all direct flights to and from mainland China due to the Wuhan Coronavirus, making it one of the biggest international carriers to do so so far. The suspension comes after Britain warned against all but essential travel to the China on Tuesday.

BA.com, the airline’s website, shows no direct flights to China are available through February.

“We apologise to customers for the inconvenience, but the safety of our customers and crew is always our priority. Customers due to travel to or from China in the coming days can find more information on BA.com.”

Thai Airways is spray-disinfecting passenger cabins and cockpits on all flights returning from China and high-risk destinations.

“Because we have in-flight entertainment, the LCD screens are being touched all the time, so we deep cleanse every flight before departure.”

A video from Thai Airways showing staff in hazmat suits spraying down a cabin garnered praise on social media for carrier’s effort, although some were alarmed by it. South Korean budget carrier Air Seoul also announced it’s suspending all flights to China due to travellers’ concerns. United Airlines too is suspending 24 US flights to Beijing; Hong Kong and Shanghai until February 8.

Low-cost airline Thai Lion Air announced yesterday it has suspended all flights between Thailand and Chengdu in southern China until February 10. Other carriers, including Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific are allowing crew to wear masks on China flights. While American Airlines provides hand sanitiser wipes for flight attendants to use on all departures to China.

Meanwhile, passengers on some airlines still flying to and from China will have to make do without hot meals, blankets and newspapers.

Taiwan’s China Airlines said it’s encouraging passengers to bring their own beverage bottles and would limit reusable items by replacing them with disposables. The airline and its regional arm Mandarin Airlines stopped serving hot meals from Monday and replaced tablecloths and napkins with paper towels on Hong Kong flights. They’ve stopped providing blankets, pillows, towels, magazines and newspapers. Beverages and disposable headphones are supplied only on request.

“The seat back pocket will only contain the aircraft safety card and sick bag,” said Tigerair Taiwan, also a member of China Airline group, adding that duty-free sales will not be available.

Thailand, the top destination for Chinese holidaymakers, had 11 million Chinese visitors last year. But with 14 coronavirus cases, it is the second-worst hit country outside of China. The economic hit on Thai tourism is expected to be high.

Source: Reuters

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Jack Burton is a writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. He attended the Henry Grady School of Journalism and his works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world.

1 Comment

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  1. Avatar

    Bruce

    January 31, 2020 at 8:18 am

    One of the best places to contract an illness is an airplane. So airlines are now asserting that their personnel are now qualified for biohazard clean-up! Hilarious or hopefully not…

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Pattaya

Chon Buri, Pattaya pass coronavirus milestones

Jack Burton

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Chon Buri, Pattaya pass coronavirus milestones | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Pattaya City Mayor Sonthaya Khunpluem, without his floral shirts - The Pattaya News

Chon Buri province passed a milestone today: 30 consecutive days without a new confirmed case of Covid-19. The Chonburi Communicable Disease Committee made the announcement this morning. Pattaya, which is part of the province, has reached 40 days. Not a single locally infected patient remains under treatment in the province.

There is a state quarantine centre in the province (Sattahip) for Thai nationals returning from abroad, which still has several people waiting to fulfil their 14 day mandatory quarantine. They arrived from overseas and were sent directly to the hospital and never mingled with the general population. They do not pose a health risk to the public, according to the Chon Buri government.

Chon Buri has had a total of 87 cases since the start of the outbreak, with 2 deaths. The deaths were both foreign nationals who were considered imported cases and had recently travelled from other provinces or countries.

Despite the case numbers, tens of thousands of businesses remain closed in the province, leaving thousands of residents out of work visiting food lines on a daily basis in Pattaya City and other parts of the province. This is due to the government’s “one size fits all” reopening plan for businesses, regardless of the number of active cases of Covid-19 in the area.

Pattaya is famous worldwide for its nightlife and tourist industry and normally attracts millions of visitors a year. The vast majority of its businesses, in the hospitality and entertainment sector, remain shuttered by government order and their staff either trying to survive in the city or already headed back ‘up country’ to their family homes.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has indicated that entertainment venues will likely be allowed to open, but with strict new rules, sometime in June.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai-made vaccine could be available sometime next year

Jack Burton

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Thai-made vaccine could be available sometime next year | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Nation Thailand.

Human trials of a locally manufactured Covid-19 vaccine could begin as early as the end of the year, according to Thailand’s Minister of Higher Education. Thailand is currently testing several vaccines. This one involves the government, Chulalongkorn University’s Centre of Excellence in Vaccine Research and Development, the National Vaccine Institute, the Department of Medical Sciences and the private sector.

“If our vaccine trial on monkeys proves successful, we will start the human trial phase after August.”

The world history of successful vaccines for coronaviruses has been poor up to this stage and most scientists agree it could take several years to bring a viable vaccine to market with a high success rate.

But the minister says a research team tested their mRNA vaccine on guinea pigs before moving to monkeys, identified as long-tailed macaques, better known as rhesus monkeys, which have a similar genetic structure to humans.

The vaccine will be tested on monkeys for 3 months in the next phase of the process. If all three test phases are successful, the team will start the human trial phase and, if successful, the government could make the vaccine available next year if it passes all the stringent international testing regimes.

“We are using mRNA technology, the newest method for developing vaccines, because the vaccine can be developed rapidly and small amounts can be used to run tests.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Tourism

Thailand depending on Chinese travellers for tourist reboot

Jack Burton

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Thailand depending on Chinese travellers for tourist reboot | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Phuket News

Thailand is looking to China to rebuild its battered travel industry. As the Covid-19 pandemic subsides in Asia, countries are discussing the idea of “travel bubbles,” in which reciprocal nations establish guidelines that enable their citizens to move freely across their borders. The wider tourism industry accounts for 18-20% of Thailand’s GDP and provides jobs for almost a tenth of Thais, according to the International Labour Organisation.

But with borders closed and planes grounded around the world, (Thailand has currently banned all passenger arrivals except Thai returnees and diplomats until at least June 30), this core of the Thai economy faces a very uncertain future. The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s best case scenario is that 14-16 million people will visit this year, more than the 8.5 million projected by the Thai Chamber of Commerce, but far fewer than last year’s record of 39.8 million, a figure that made it Southeast Asia’s most popular tourism destination. And yesterday a TAT spokesman made the nation’s position clear:

“China will remain Thailand’s and Asia’s biggest outbound tourist market.”

Chinese accounted for more than a quarter of tourists who visited Thailand last year, and their importance has been magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic. Long haul travel is not expected to rebound quickly, and Thailand’s tourism strategy is now focused on domestic travel and the short haul travellers who are most likely to return first – the Chinese.

With a population of 1.4 billion, the rising middle class now have the travel bug and have become the world’s most numerous tourist market in many destinations, especially around Asia.

Rebuilding this market is crucial not only to resurrecting Thailand’s economy, but also those of neighbouring nations like Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. The ability of these countries to refloat their own tourism industries depends largely on Thailand’s reopening, as the airports of Bangkok serve as a hub for the region. But it won’t be easy as Thailand faces increased competition from regional competitors like Vietnam and the Philippines, both of which were in the midst of their own tourism booms before the virus struck. It will also face competition from China itself, where the pandemic has boosted interest in domestic travel.

“We cannot leave it too late to prepare for Chinese arrivals. International competition for this market is bound to be intense.”

Complicating matters is the fact that wholesale group travel, previously the sector’s backbone, is unlikely to bounce back swiftly. A survey by industry consultancy C9 Hotelworks found that 71% of Chinese planning foreign travel in 2020 would consider travelling to Thailand, and 83% of that group said they would want to go as independent travellers. The consultancy also believes older travellers will be slower to return to the market, noting that more than 80% of those who responded to its survey were between the ages of 20 and 40.

But there was good news for Thailand. Half of those surveyed said they would spend 15,000 yuan (67,000 baht) per trip.

C9 managing director Bill Barnett says targeting those predisposed to travel is a good way to drum up business in a short period.

At this stage it is unlikely that any tourists are going anywhere soon as borders remain closed, travel bans are still in place, airlines remain grounded and financially reluctant or unable to ramp up international flights quickly. In Thailand the borders remain closed, except for Thai repatriates, until at least June 30. Even when they open it has not yet been announced the conditions on which foreigners will be able to travel to Thailand, which countries they will be accepted and the types of insurances required. The world’s discretionary income has also plummeted as the Covid-19 recession starts to bite.

But if anyone is likely to be the first wave of post-Covid tourists, it’s most probable to be from China.

SOURCE: SCMP

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