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Coronavirus Asia

320,000 of Singapore’s migrant workers living in Covid-19 limbo

Jack Burton

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As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the world, some countries are faring better than others. Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and as late as March, Singapore, had all been hailed for using the hard-won lessons of the 2003-04 SARS outbreak to combat the new virus, a relative of SARS.

For Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, the story might well have been one of immense tragedy, the timing was bad. The virus emerged just before the Chinese New Year, when millions travel on home visits across the region in the world’s largest annual human migration. All three territories are closely interconnected with mainland China, where the outbreak began, and all 3 began aggressive measures to contain the spread.

But things are different now. Singapore’s confirmed cases have blown past 10,000 from just 1,000 at the beginning of this month and as of this morning stood at 11,178 and rising, the highest number in south east Asia. The city state is regularly posting over 1,000 new cases per day, the vast majority among its estimated 320,000 migrant workers living in cramped conditions. Almost 80% of new infections are linked to migrant workers living in 43 mega-dormitories across the country.

Singapore was lauded by the World Health Organisation for its swift action to suppress infections but the crisis has shone a spotlight on how it treats marginalised migrants

320,000 of Singapore's migrant workers living in Covid-19 limbo | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Asia Times

On Tuesday this week, Singapore said it would stop the daily movements of workers in and out of all dormitories, including those that are purpose built, factory-owned or temporary quarters for construction workers. Workers in essential services, who’ve tested negative, have been moved to other accommodations. The rest will remain in virtual concentration camps, where the risk of infection has been evaluated as “extremely high”.

320,000 of Singapore's migrant workers living in Covid-19 limbo | News by The Thaiger

GRAPH: Worldometers.info

The pandemic exposes the gross inequality in Singapore, which relies heavily on a workforce of about a million migrant workers to build the country’s shiny skyscrapers and clean its sprawling shopping malls. Most of the migrant workers come from Bangladesh, India and other South Asian countries hoping of sending money back home. Their lifestyles are in stark contrast to the country’s wealthy elites and financial workers and live in separate communities and remote villages, away from the tourist areas and busy shopping malls.

A video report from the BBC.

SOURCES: BBC | Technology Review | Bangkok Post | The Guardian

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. 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. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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Coronavirus Thailand

Despite special tourist visa approval, hoteliers remain skeptical about reopening

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Despite special tourist visa approval, hoteliers remain skeptical about reopening | The Thaiger

As news comes of the cabinet approving a special long-term tourist visa scheme, hoteliers are remaining skeptical about reopening due to the lack of clarity in the recent announcement, which will reportedly take effect next month. The president of the Thai Hotels Association’s southern chapter says more hoteliers will consider reopening if the government gives further information about the plan in terms of prospective markets, arrival dates, origin countries, and flights.

Such details would allow hotels to prepare themselves ahead of time to offer services as alternative state quarantine premises as at least 60 hotels in Phuket are awaiting approval to operate as such a facility.

Around 90 percent of Phuket hotels reportedly remain closed and are revising their plans on a monthly basis to ensure any future income will not fall behind operation costs. In Chon Buri, the Tourism Council says only half of the 200 registered hotels have reopened, with up to 20 hotels applying for ASQ certification.

Another issue keeps hoteliers on standby as most international flights are currently only operating at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, giving foreigners entering Thailand limited options for undergoing a state quarantine. Apart from landing in the country’s capital, tourism-related agencies also have to find appropriate marketing campaigns that would target visitors willing to comply with the 14-day mandatory quarantine requirements upon arrival.

Areas outside of Bangkok will need special transportation allowances set up for those entering through Suvarnabhumi to be transferred to their end destinations without being exposed to large groups of people.

Otherwise, as seen in the North with only 30% of hotels having reopened-some with only a 10% occupancy rate, hoteliers await further details of the scheme which is reportedly set to run between October 2020 to November 2021.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus Asia

Trials and tribulations 3. Returning to Thailand in the Covid era – on the home straight

The Thaiger

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Trials and tribulations 3. Returning to Thailand in the Covid era – on the home straight | The Thaiger

byDavid Jackson

Monday morning and I’m on the home straight assuming I pass my final Covid test that I took yesterday morning.The situation hasn’t been too bad over the weekend as I was allowed outside into the hotel’s garden area for 40 minutes each day. On Saturday the threat of rain caused the nurse to request my early return to my hotel room, presumably the paranoia of any possible illness caused her some consternation; luckily the rain didn’t materialise and I stayed outside, I am a Brit… rain happens!

It certainly feels good on the eyes to see infinity and to finally observe people going about their daily business in the adjacent street whilst safely socially distanced at 300m.The garden area here in this hotel is full of flowers and small trees so I have modified my room race track into an outside one although, regrettably, my times for ten laps are actually getting longer.

You can read David’s first and second articles about his time in quarantine.

Every Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) Hotel is paired with a local hospital and the nurses keep a good eye on you via the Line app.Every morning and night you have to report your temperature and they especially enjoy asking about your stools… welcome to Thailand. Incidentally, and most definitely not in any way related to the previous statement, there has been plenty of fruit and vegetables provided in both the Thai and Farang meals.

I have been asked to go into greater detail about the processes involved in the home country prior to embarkation.I must make a disclaimer here since I imagine systems and procedures will be changing rapidly, but this was my process.I have not included costings because this would depend upon the point of origin and many other factors.

The flight for me was booked via Thai Airways although the initiator of the paperwork for this flight was, in my case the Royal Thai Embassy in London.I eventually managed to book an ASQ myself after some stress because I was convinced there were not initially enough available.

In my case I did not need a visa since I already had a work permit and my exit/re-entry visa from a few months ago was still valid.The embassy will then issue you with a Certificate of Entry document so they know exactly when you are arriving in order to arrange the welcome committee (see my first article from last week). Incidentally I did everything online and there are some excellent staff at this embassy who really are working way beyond their remit so treat them well because they sincerely want to facilitate your return.

So, you now have a date and confirmed flight so stage two needs to begin.For me, I needed an additional insurance although I imagine many repatriates will already be covered, the key statement which should be shown on the certificate is Covid Cover to USD 100,000 and the welcome party will scrutinise this piece of paper so make sure it is bona fide.I used a Thai company via an agent and this contract was efficiently turned around in less than 48 hours.

The final two products are time specific.A ‘free of covid’ certificate undertaken via the PCR (aka. swab-up-nose) method plus fit-to-fly certificate.The rules are a validity of 72 hours prior to checking in for the flight and the embassy eventually confirmed a revised statement of 72 hours from the result and date of the certificate, not when the swab was taken. For me my covid test certificate was dated one day too early yet the doctor writing the fit-to-fly was happy to write a statement confirming the Covid test and dated it all within the 72 hour period.

This is what you need in specific order (excluding visa)…

  1. Flight
  2. Hotel
  3. Insurance
  4. Certificate of Entry (free from Thai embassy)
  5. Covid Free Certificate
  6. Fit to Fly certificate, or letter from a doctor (online in my case)

It was not cheap so do your maths; I have a job here in Thailand and certainly did not want to let down my boss, colleagues and students, so I 100% had to return. I personally do not think any of this is sustainable long term since the process which I followed, plus the 15 days lack of freedom, are brutal.Nevertheless, the hotels have done a grand job at making this happen so I imagine there will be some reverse pressure to maintain the 14 day quarantine for the time being if only to recoup some of this investment.

What an incredibly difficult year. The world is in a mess; we have virtually overnight destroyed the numerous transhumance systems created over many years to apparently save lives. We walk around scared to shake hands hidden behind masks and visors, like Armageddon is imminent, yet the 900,000 covid deaths are replaced in less than three days with new born children globally.

Let us hope that over the next few months the decision makers become slightly more pragmatic and, in my opinion, start to think about the longer-term economy and the status of foreign visitors within that.In the meantime, good luck with your paperwork and welcome back to The Land of Smiles.

The accompanying picture shows what can be achieved in eleven days using volumes and volumes of food packaging, chop-sticks, random pieces of plant and a pot scourer.

David Jackson in an English teacher and former headmaster from London working at St Mark’s International School, Bangkok.

Trials and tribulations 3. Returning to Thailand in the Covid era – on the home straight | News by The Thaiger

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

No new cases today- Covid-19 update (July 7)

The Thaiger & The Nation

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No new cases today- Covid-19 update (July 7) | The Thaiger

Today, there have been no new reported cases of Covid-19 in Thailand over the past 24 hours leaving the total amount of cases remaining at 3,195 with 58 deaths since the pandemic began. The number of recovered patients remains at 3,072, leaving 65 still hospitalized.

The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration said that of the 3,195 accumulated cases, 2,444 contracted the disease locally, while 258 were diagnosed in state quarantine facilities. The Kingdom has had no new community transmissions over the past 43 days.

Globally, the number of cases rose by 182,490 over the past 24 hours to 11.74 million. The death toll also increased by 3,884 to 540,660.

The United States had the most cases at 3.04 million, increasing by 57,905 over the last 24 hours and the most deaths at 132,979, increasing by 410 since yesterday.

Brazil has seen the second-highest number of cases at 1.63 million, up by 21,486 over the last 24 hours, with 65,556 deaths. India has the third-highest number of cases with 720,346 cases and 20,174 deaths. Thailand currently ranks 99th in the world for the number of reported cases.

No new cases today- Covid-19 update (July 7) | News by The Thaiger

Screenshot from https://covid19.ddc.moph.go.th/en

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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