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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Covid-era travel restrictions around Asia

Maya Taylor

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Covid-era travel restrictions around Asia | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chuttersnap on Unsplash

As most Asian countries dust themselves off and emerge from the ashes of the initial ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic, a report in the Chiang Rai Times looks at how flight restrictions may affect travel in the region. International flights are still off-limits for many countries, but the situation is expected to gradually improve, particularly with the introduction of “travel bubbles” and “green lanes”.

Thailand
A ban on international flights is in place until at least the end of June, with many expecting it to be extended past then. Exceptions are being made for repatriation flights for Thai citizens who wish to return home, and foreigners in possession of work permits. In both cases, paperwork is required from Thai embassies and non-Thais must show they have tested negative for Covid-19. All arrivals then enter a mandatory 14 day quarantine period, although in the case of foreigners, this is at their own expense.

Thailand is now considering opening up to tourists from low-risk countries, such as China, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan. But wether this is in July or sometime later is anyone’s guess. It is unlikely Thailand would allow visitors from ‘at risk’ countries into Thailand any time soon. That would probably include most European countries, South American countries, the UK and the US.

Malaysia
Domestic travel between states resumed yesterday but a ban on international travel remains in force. Exceptions are made for repatriating Malaysians, who must then self-isolate at home for 14 days.

Singapore
The city state’s borders remain closed, although it is permitting air passengers to transit through its airport. Singapore is believed to be considering a travel bubble with Malaysia and New Zealand, which would see international flights resumed between the 3 countries. Singapore has had an enormous surge in cases since the start of April, mostly in it migrant worker community.

Indonesia
The borders remain closed to international arrivals, other than Indonesian citizens and long-term pass holders, who must show evidence of having tested negative for Covid-19 or agree to be tested at the airport. Domestic flights have resumed with restrictions, including airlines only being permitted to operate at 70% capacity.

China
Most foreigners are banned from entering China for now, including those with valid visas and residency permits. Exceptions are being made for some business executives and expert personnel. Chinese nationals are being allowed back in and the country has agreed on a pact with South Korea and Singapore to enable business travel between the 3 countries.

South Korea
Some international flights are now operating, with all arrivals, whether foreign or South Korean, quarantined for 2 weeks. Exceptions are being made for diplomats and foreigners with official business status, who are instead tested on arrival.

India
The country currently has over 287,000+ cases (as of Thursday 5pm Thai time) of Covid-19 and its borders are sealed. At the start of April India had just under 2,000 reports cases of Covid-19. The government says it hopes to be able to resume international flights once restrictions are eased on foreign nationals globally. That won’t be any time soon.

Vietnam
Only Vietnamese citizens and work permit holders are being granted entry, provided they show a negative test certificate and fulfill the mandatory 14 day quarantine period. The Vietnamese government has said it hopes to end its ban on international flights for countries that have not recorded a new case of the virus for more than 30 days, but priority is expected to be given to foreign investors and experts, to get the economy going again. VietJet and Vietnam Airlines have announced tentative schedules for the resumption of international flights.

Japan
The government is hoping to ease travel restrictions and is in talks with some low-risk countries about reopening borders. Medical staff and those arriving on business are expected to be given priority and it’s likely they will have to agree to being tested and submit their travel itinerary.

Taiwan
For the most part, only Taiwanese citizens and work permit holders are being granted entry, all of whom have to undergo a 14 day quarantine period. The country is monitoring the situation in other countries carefully, saying any easing of border controls must be done with great caution. Taiwan is considered one of the most successful countries in the world in its handling of the outbreak.

Australia & New Zealand
Both countries currently have their borders shut to international arrivals, with the only exceptions being repatriated citizens and permanent residents, who must undergo a 14 day quarantine period. Both governments have also discussed a possible travel bubble, which might include the Pacific Islands, although New Zealand is reluctant to agree to this while Australia continues to allow unrestricted domestic travel.

SOURCE: Chiang. Rai Times

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Thai army medic accused of injecting troops with fake Covid-19 vaccine during UN mission

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai army medic accused of injecting troops with fake Covid-19 vaccine during UN mission | The Thaiger
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A medic for the Royal Thai Army was dismissed and his medical license revoked after injecting troops with fake Covid-19 vaccines during a United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. The “vaccine” was actually just water. The medic, who is also a lieutenant, apparently injected 273 Thai troops with the water shot and charged 607 baht, or around $20 USD, per injection.

A soldier noticed the bottles the medic was using for the injections were unlabelled. A superior then launched an internal investigation and found that the bottles were just filled with water. Under the UN’s orders, the medic was dismissed and sent back to Thailand. His medical license was also revoked.

Thai media first reported the news, saying that a Thai army doctor at a South Sudan field hospital was suspended from duty due to an investigation into alleged fraud. The medic reportedly worked at the hospital from December 2019 to December 2020.

Following the news report, Thai Supreme Commander General Chalermphol Srisawat confirmed that a medic had been injecting troops with water and claiming it was a Covid-19 vaccine.

SOURCES: Thai PBS | Nation Thailand

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Japan asks China to stop anal Covid-19 tests after travellers report “psychological distress”

Caitlin Ashworth

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Japan asks China to stop anal Covid-19 tests after travellers report “psychological distress” | The Thaiger

After complaints that China’s anal swab Covid-19 test caused “psychological distress,” Japan has asked China to stop using the new, much more invasive method of testing on Japanese citizens entering the country.

For the anal test, reportedly done on some travellers entering China from overseas, a 3 to 5 centimetre long cotton swab is inserted into the anus and gently rotated to collect the sample. While it’s unclear exactly how many people have gone through the procedure, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato says some Japanese citizens have reported mental discomfort after the test.

“Some Japanese reported to our embassy in China that they received anal swab tests, which caused great psychological pain.”

The Japanese government made a request through the embassy in Beijing to stop using the anal swab test on Japanese citizens. Katsunobu says China has not yet responded to the request.

China started using the anal swab test in January. The anal tests are controversial with many experts backing the oral test as the most efficient way to detect a coronavirus infection.

SOURCE: BBC

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Thailand considering vaccine passport policy in bid to revive international tourism

Maya Taylor

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Thailand considering vaccine passport policy in bid to revive international tourism | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Thailand’s Tourism Minister, Pipat Ratchakitprakarn, says he has asked the Public Health Ministry to approve a vaccine passport scheme aimed at reviving the devastated tourism sector. According to Pipat, the government is looking to the World Health Organisation to issue a statement on vaccine passports before it makes a decision on the matter.

The Tourism Minister adds that having a scheme in place that would allow foreign visitors to bypass quarantine could lead to 5 million tourists arriving in the Kingdom this year. Nation Thailand reports that the government’s Covid-19 task force is also considering allowing quarantining tourists to leave their rooms after 3 days of self-isolation. Pipat predicts that the Russians could be first to return, with tour agents in Russia saying demand is high enough to support regular flights of between 300 and 400 passengers.

The ministry also hopes to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to the 5 major tourism provinces of Phuket, Surat Thani, Chon Buri, Chiang Mai and Krabi. The vaccines would be given to employees at alternative quarantine hotels. It’s understood there are currently 58 alternative quarantine facilities across the 5 provinces, with over 6,700 rooms and 13,000 employees.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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