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Former Italian leader Berlusconi tests positive for Covid-19

Maya Taylor

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Former Italian leader Berlusconi tests positive for Covid-19 | The Thaiger
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Silvio Berlusconi, the colourful and often divisive former leader of Italy, has tested positive for coronavirus, following a trip to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The tourist hot-spot has experienced a surge in new cases in recent weeks, thought to be a result of holidaymakers descending on the island, as is normal every August.

His personal doctor at Milan’s San Raffaele hospital, Alberto Zangrillo, says that despite displaying no symptoms, Berlusconi decided to be tested due to a recent holiday in Sardinia. His good friend Flavio Briatore, the owner of Sardinia’s Billionaire nightclub, tested positive last month.

83 year old Berlusconi has vowed to continue his political campaigning while self-isolating at his home north of Milan. Local elections are due to be held in Italy this month, with the former leader backing members of his Forza Italia party.

“Unfortunately, this too has happened to me, but I carry on fighting.”

In March and April, Italy endured one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in Europe, with many residents still reeling from the trauma of over 270,000 cases and 35,500 deaths. In recent months, things have improved, with the country finally managing to contain the spread of the virus. However, the annual August holidays and an increase in nightlife activities is thought to be behind a recent upsurge in cases.

Meanwhile, politicians from all sides have been sending their best wishes to Berlusconi, including one of his fiercest critics, foreign minister and former leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio.

“I hope he will fight this battle with the strength that has always distinguished him.”

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Visa amnesty runs to October 31 | Complete Thailand Travel Guide (September 2020)

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Visa amnesty runs to October 31 | Complete Thailand Travel Guide (September 2020) | The Thaiger

Latest update – September 29. The Thaiger updates information about travelling to and re-entering Thailand. Depending on where you’re coming from, your purpose for visiting Thailand and your country’s own Covid-19 travel restrictions, the situation is changing daily. If you are overseas and wish to come to Thailand your FIRST port of call must be the Royal Thai Embassy in your country before you make any bookings.

A new visa amnesty now runs until the end of October

A new visa amnesty was announced by the Thai PM and the CCSA yesterday afternoon. Foreigners who recently paid 1,900 baht for a 30 day visa extension (before September 26) are now clear to stay in Thailand until November 30 at no extra cost, but those foreigners need to report to immigration to get their visa stamp corrected.

At this stage, although announced and approved by the CCSA and the Thai PM, the new amnesty has not been entered into the Royal Gazette but is expected to be in the next 24 hours.

The announcement follows a decision confirmed late yesterday by the CCSA to issue another grace period for foreigners stranded in Thailand, until October 31. Under the new regulation, 60 day visa extensions will be issued to those who are unable to travel back to their home country. The reasons could be lack of flights, problems with Covid in their home country, medical reasons or something else that prevent you from leaving the country.

Those who received a 30 day extension will need to visit their local immigration office and get the correct stamp that will indicate the new expiration date in their passport, according to a story in The Phuket News. In the past, foreigners have needed to present a letter from their country’s embassy requesting an extension, but Immigration Bureau Deputy Commissioner Pornchai Kuntee says “letters from embassies may not be needed.”

Tell us about the new long stay ‘special tourist visa’, the STV.

Here are the strict basic requirements of the new STV…

• Foreign visitors will be required to have a Covid-19 test taken 72 hours before, departure

• They will have to buy Covid-19 health insurance

• Sign a letter of consent agreeing to comply with the Thai government’s Covid-19 measures

• Will be for a minimum 90 days (there have been some reports of a minimum 30 days), renewable twice, to a total of 20 days

• The visa will be limited to people from ‘low-risk’ countries although that list has not been announced

• Successful applicants will have to complete a 14 day mandatory quarantine at a state-registered quarantine/hotel

• STV travellers must travel by charter plane and every flight carrying them must receive permission from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or CCSA

The new 90 day special tourist visa would be able to be extended twice, for 90 days each time. So, a total of 270 days (around 9 months). It was also announced that travellers would have to arrive on charter flights only, further pushing up the price of potential travel back to Thailand.

“Visitors can arrive for tourism or health services, and they can stay at alternative state quarantine facilities, specific areas or at hospitals that function as quarantine facilities. Our public health system is amongst the best in the world and people can have confidence in it.”

The new ‘STV’ (Special Tourist Visa) which will cost 2,000 baht and will last for 90 days each. The new visa regulation will be in effect until September 30, 2021 and may be extended beyond that time.

The government noted that it doesn’t have the ability to fully re-open to tourism at the moment as they have to be able to process incoming visitors and find approved locations for them to serve their 14 day quarantine.”The target is to welcome 100-300 visitors a week, or up to 1,200 people a month, and generate income of about 1 billion baht a month.”

Thai officials have also said they will only accept tourists from “low risk” countries, without specifying what those countries are.

On Friday, September 18, a director at the Department of Disease Control, said that foreign tourists will have to present proof of a negative Covid-19 test no more than 72 hours prior to travel.

The Thaiger will update the details of the new long stay tourist visa as soon as the become available.

The Special Tourist Visa will be formerly approved Monday. Read more HERE.

How is Thailand doing compared to the rest of the world with it’s re-opening to tourists?

The UN World Tourism Organisation has published its latest update on the state of the world’s re-openings in the Covid-era. 53% of the world’s tourist destinations have now started easing travel restrictions government’s imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The UNWTO reports acknowledges that many destinations “remain cautious” and some are even re-closing borders and tightening up restrictions again.

It’s the 7th edition of the “Covid-19 Related Travel Restrictions: A Global Review for Tourism”and identifies an ongoing global trend to gradually restart the world’s tourism machine. The report analyses restrictions by governments up to September 1. The research covers a total of 115 destinations (53% of all destinations worldwide) have now eased their travel restrictions – that’s an increase of 28 since 19 July. Of these, two have lifted all restrictions, while the remaining 113 continue to have certain restrictive measures in place.

• Another stand-out stat was that in advanced economies, 79% of tourism destinations had already started easing restrictions. In emerging economies, less than half, just 47% of destinations, have started the process.

• 64% of those destinations which have eased have a “high or medium dependence” on airlines to deliver international tourists to their location. Island destinations are particularly at risk at this time as the air lift is critical to their tourist success.

• 43% of all worldwide destinations continue to have their borders completely closed to all tourism, of which 27 destinations have had their borders “completely closed” for at least 7 months.

• Half of all destinations in the survey, with borders completely closed to tourism, are listed as being among the “World’s Most Vulnerable Countries”. They include 10 Small Island Developing States, one Least Developed Country and three Land-Locked Developing Countries.

Should I use a visa agent to extend my visa?

There are plenty of ads being posted at this time offering magic extensions to visas and opportunities to stay in Thailand after September 26. Please be aware that some of these alleged visa agents are scams. There are also plenty of good visa agents who will be able to provide you with advice and solutions, at a cost, allowing you to remain in the country.

If you do wish to contact a visa agent at this time make sure you get a referral from a friend, visit their office in person or ask plenty of questions and check their bonafides. Do not start sending money to accounts until you have seen some paperwork or evidence that they are able to provide you with a legal and professional service. Caveat emptor!

I had a retirement visa and have lived in Thailand for many years. When can I return?

Foreigners with permanent residences who have been stranded overseas for the past 6 months, and long-term foreign residents (retirement visa), can now re-enter Thailand.

Both groups still have to undergo the mandatory state-controlled 14 day quarantine.

If you believe you fall into either of these categories, contact your local Thai Embassy or consulate to discuss your circumstances BEFORE you purchase a ticket or make any other arrangements.

Is it safe in Thailand at the moment?

Yes. No less safe than usual and certainly there has been no civil unrest that would make you ponder your personal safety beyond the usual precautions you would take anywhere in the world. The current student protests are fairly limited and are publicised ahead of time so you can avoid those situations. Whilst there has been some outbursts against foreigners from a Thai politician and a few stressed-out locals, the situation for foreigners remains safe and secure at this time.

What happened to the Phuket Model?

It was a non-starter after the government encountered resistance from some in Phuket. It was also not well received by travellers and many in the local hospitality industry.

At this stage, a model to allow limited tourists to re-enter the country, on extended tourist visas, with some restrictions, is being hammered out by the CCSA in conjunction with the Public Health Department, TAT and Ministry of Sports and Tourism. It’s called the Special Tourist Visa and is aimed at high-wealth tourists with plenty of time, as the visa has a minimum 90 day stay requirement.

Are there any Facebook pages where I can share my story about wanting to come back to Thailand?

The ‘Love Is Not Tourism Thailand’ Facebook page, which includes families torn apart by the pandemic, is calling on the Thai government to help reunite their families.

“We’re asking the government to issue visas or allow entry for family members and lovers to reunite with each other for humanitarian reasons. Evidence such as a passport with an entry stamp into Thailand, photos, and text messages should be able to verify their unions.”

I have been stranded in Thailand since April. Now I have run out of money and don’t know what to do.

This is a really difficult situation and you’d be well advised to contact your friends and family, and advise them of your predicament. Also, you MUST contact your country’s embassy or consulate to alert them of the situation. They will at least have information about repatriating you to your home country or perhaps other options that may be available.

Just hoping your situation is going to improve won’t work. Get as much information as you can about your options. And hopefully your family or friends can send you some funds to tide you over during this crazy time. Chock dee krub!

The airlines are selling tickets to fly to Thailand now. Should I buy one?

No. Don’t buy a ticket for a flight to Thailand until you have ALL the paperwork required, have discussed your trip with your local embassy and you have been approved for travel. Why the airlines keep selling tickets, for flights that will be cancelled, is a mystery.

There are currently no plans to open Thailand’s borders for international tourism beyond proposals for a limited opening for tourism into Phuket called the Phuket Model. It was proposed to start in October but no decisions have been made.

Which leads us to the next question….

When will Thailand open its borders for international tourism?

Both the Civil Aviation Authority and a Deputy Governor from the TAT have stated that it is unlikely that the borders will be reopened for general tourism until 2021. But there is now the new Special Tourist Visa which allows tourists to visit for 90 days at a time (extendable twice for a total of 270 days), at a cost of 2,000 baht per application or extension. There are still quite draconian restrictions on the new visa, including the 14 day mandatory quarantine and lots of paperwork. Your starting point would be to contact your Royal Thai Embassy in your country.

Would a Thailand Elite Visa solve my problems?

Yes and no. The Elite Visa program is an excellent and convenient means of staying in Thailand with few problems, allowing you to avoid visits to Immigration and most of the paperwork. But it’s an expensive up-front costs and, for now, there is a 3-4 month waiting period to process new applications.

At this time, there is also a limit on the number of people, on various visas, they are allowing to re-enter Thailand each day. But if you have the cash, it’s definitely an option as people on the Thailand Elite Visa are currently allowed to re-enter the Kingdom.

Our flight has a transit stop in Thailand. Can we get off the plane and spend a day in Bangkok?

No. At this time all transits require passengers to remain on the plane. There may be some situations where they deplane passengers but you will be restricted to a section of the airport.

Can I get a job, get a new visa and stay in Thailand?

Maybe, possibly. Jobs for foreigners are thin on the ground at the moment. Outside of teaching English (there will always be jobs for English teachers in Thailand), most companies are cutting staff right now, rather than employing. You would need to secure a letter of offer from your new employer and visit you local immigration office to discuss the matter urgently, before September 26.

Can I fly back to my country and get a new Non B visa, and then return to Thailand?

In theory, yes. But it will take some good planning and a dose of luck for the plan to be successful. Theo did it… HERE’s the link to his story. You will certainly need to do a 14 day quarantine upon your return and the capricious nature of various embassy and immigration officials could make the many steps to get all the paperwork a nightmare.

What about other tropical holiday spots?

Island economies, dependent on tourism – from Bali in Indonesia, to Hawaii in the US – grapple with the pandemic, which has brought global travel to a virtual halt. World aviation has dropped by 97% (last month compared year-on-year). Re-opening to tourists has led to the resurgence of infection in some places like the Caribbean island of Aruba, and governments are fearful of striking the wrong balance between public health and economic reality. Even The Maldives, which confidently re-opened for tourism, has had a recent surge of new cases and forcing the government to rethink its plans.

Ibiza and the other popular Spanish party islands, are also devastated by the current Covid situation.

Can I travel to Thailand for medical Tourism?

Yes. Even though Thailand’s borders are still closed to most travel, including tourism, there are some select groups being allowed back into the Kingdom. Medical tourists are one of those groups but, for most countries, ONLY for urgent or emergency medical matters. Foreign medical tourists are now permitted to apply to come to Thailand for medical treatment with strict disease control measures being put in place.

BUT, and there’s always a ‘but’ at the moment, some countries will not permit its citizens to travel outside of their home countries, even for medical emergencies. In all cases, you would need to consult your local Royal Thai Embassy to find out if you are eligible, before you book a flight or sing a contract with a medical provider in Thailand.

Under the CCSA regulations, foreign medical and wellness tourists have to arrive by air to ensure effective disease control, not via land border checkpoints at this stage.

“Those seeking cosmetic surgery and infertility treatments will be allowed to enter the country. Those seeking Covid-19 treatment are barred.”

If you’d like to investigate coming to Thailand at this time, go to MyMediTravel to browse procedures and check out your options.

Spokesperson Dr. Taweesilp Visanuyothin says the visitors must have an appointment letter from a doctor in Thailand and entry certificates issued by Thai embassies across the globe. People wanting to visit Thailand for medical procedures at this time will need to contact the Thai Embassy in their country to organise the visa and paperwork. Thailand’s major hospitals will provide potential candidates with an appointment letter.

They will also need to produce proof that they tested negative for Covid-19 before their arrival. Once in Thailand they will be tested again and will required to stay at the medical facility for at least 14 days, during which they will be able to start their chosen treatments.

The CCSA says that medical procedures will only be allowed for foreigners at hospitals that have been registered to provide the treatments and have proven their ability to contain any potential outbreak. Potential patients will only be allowed to bring a total of 3 family members or caretakers during their visit to Thailand. Caretakers will have to go through the same screening procedures as the patient.

Embassies and participating hospitals will be able to provide more information about procedures, facilities, paperwork requirements and arrival options.

Again, MAKE SURE you consult the Royal Thai Embassy in your home country before proceeding with any medical tourism pans.

Travel advice from the UK government

From 4 July, Thailand is exempt from the FCO advice against all non-essential international travel. This is based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.

However, the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK from Thailand remains in place. See guidance on entering or returning to the UK.

The following advice within Thailand remains in place. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to areas within the provinces on the Thailand-Malaysia border, including…

  • Pattani
  • Yala
  • Narathiwat
  • Southern Songkhla province. This does not include areas north of and including the A43 road between Hat Yai and Sakom, and areas north-west of and including the train line which runs between Hat Yai and Pedang Besar.

Travel to Thailand is subject to entry restrictions.

  • At present only certain categories of foreign nationals are permitted to enter or transit Thailand.
  • If you’re eligible to enter, you will be subject to a 14-day state quarantine at a Thai government-designated facility at your own expense. If suspected of carrying Covid-19, you may be denied entry into the country
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Top 10 things that changed in Thailand during the Covid outbreak

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Top 10 things that changed in Thailand during the Covid outbreak | The Thaiger

Things have changed. In some cases they’ve changed a lot and may never be the same again. Many people are suffering as a result of the impacts of lockdowns and the border closures. Entire industries, like aviation and entertainment, have been profoundly affected. Some people are being forced to re-invent their lives as a result. Fears over Covid-19 are causing people to change their habits and re-evaluate their lives. Here are some of the main things we believe have changed since January this year.

Face Masks

The now ever-present face mask will be with us for a long time. In Asia, it was never uncommon to see people wearing face masks for traffic, air pollution, fears of disease or just as a fashion statement.

In the Covid-era, mask wearing will now just become part of what we wear when in public spaces. When we leave home we’ll check if we have our keys, our wallet AND our face mask. Even when the government relaxes the current laws about the wearing of face masks, most people, we predict, will continue to wear them anyway, at least in the medium to long term.

Taking Your Temperature

It’s everywhere, it doesn’t appear to be very effective or reliable, but it’s not uncommon to have your temperature taken by someone pointing an infra-red thermometer at your head numerous times a day. The only people that appear to have benefitted from these temperature checks are the manufacturers of infra-red temperature check machines. But in the Covid-era they remain an ever-present reassurance that at least businesses are trying and want to be seen as contributing to the broader public health safety.

Xenophobia

Top 10 things that changed in Thailand during the Covid outbreak | News by The Thaiger

As Thais have pondered the reason their shops closing, their tourist customers vanishing and their income dropping, thoughts turn to the foreigners that brought the virus here in the first place…. and the vast majority of new cases recently, from OVERSEAS!

Either real or imagined, xenophobia and racism always creep in during times of national stress. Many politicians perpetuate the fears to their advantage and right-wing groups thrive on the blame game.

During Covid-19, Thailand has been a wonderful host to the hundreds of thousands of foreigners stuck here to share this testing time. And many foreigners have responded to the crisis by volunteering their time and resources to help struggling locals get through the worst of the local lockdowns and closures.

There has been a few, luckily very few, outbursts by some mis-informed Thai politicians, journalists and local keyboard warriors expressing their frustrations and targeting the foreigners as the butt of their frustrations.

Flying in the Covid-era

While the domestic carriers are all flying again, they’re doing it tough. Planes are sometimes half-empty and there’s certainly less choice of times and destinations, compared to before the Covid travel restrictions set in.

But it hasn’t stopped the budget airlines from making the situation extremely competitive with the fares still very low. The aviation industry will certainly re-emerge with fewer airlines as some will be unable to weather the Covid storm. Even the Thai government’s announcement of soft-loans to airlines, with 2% interest, will do little to help and simply kicks the bankruptcy can down the road a few more months.

Confidence

Many business had to close during the lockdown. Some have re-opened. Others tried to re-open but have since closed again. Some are struggling along as best they can, tweaking their business models to cope. But people, through fear or simply being unable to afford it, are going out less and spending less. People are rediscovering the values of close communities, family or the joys of Netflix and at-home entertainment.

The impacts of recessions across the region will have long-lasting, profound effects on consumer confidence and behaviour. People’s renewed confidence will lag behind any eventual economic recoveries.

Eating Out

There’s been few clear winners in all this Covid mess. But delivery companies are one of them and the local motorcycle delivery services in particular. Grab Food and Food Panda are just two examples of the new way we eat and many restaurants are changing their table service model, and even their take away services, to suit the new normal of food-on-demand. Some restaurants have even closed their doors forever and turned into virtual restaurants, delivering food exclusively through the convenience of app ordering and delivery.

Even as the situation has eased to a large degree in Thailand where a lot of daily living is back to ‘normal’, people simply aren’t going out as much, have pivoted to the delivery services for some shopping and eating, and finding new ways of running their lives, closer to home and with less household outlay.

The Travel Industry

Apart from the obvious lack of international tourism, there’s no doubt we’re simply going to be travelling less in the short to medium term. Many people will be unable to afford the long holidays of the pastand may travel less, or not at all. For business we’ve found efficient ways to keep in contact without meeting face to face. Had anyone ever heard of “zoom’ video conferencing software before Covid?

For the communities that relied on tourism, the changes in their situation has been profound. Businesses are having to reinvent their model to cater for domestic tourism or simply find other ways to diversify their business plan, or just wait out the situation. That wait will eventually kill off a large chunk of local and foreign businesses.

The Economy

Thailand is in recession. So is everywhere else, and the situation, sadly, is likely to get worse as the Covid-era stretches out beyond 2020 and restrictions hold back investment. Some previously good businesses are now out of business. Businesses that were struggling before have been proven unsustainable and closed, probably never to re-open.

Globally, the government stimulus poured into local economies has caused artificial spikes in some stock markets. All this debt will need to be repaid at some stage. In other countries, where the government paid salaries for companies that were forced to close up or sack staff, are finding it hard to ween people off the grants and get them back to work.

In Thailand the economy has been hit hard, particularly in the export , tourism and hospitality industries. The downstream effects of all the staff losing their work, will have an effect on the local economy for many years.

Thailand, reliant on international tourism, has found itself exposed once the borders were closed. As the situation extends way past the ‘few months’ people were expecting, the full impact is starting to hit hard, particularly in places like Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Their reliance on tourism has exposed their economies and left thousands wondering what else they can do to sustain themselves.

Whilst Thailand has recovered quickly from past political unrest, tsunamis and past pandemic threats, this time there will be a much longer path to recovery and will force many businesses to re-evaluate their businesses.

Work from home

Both Thailand’s commercial property market and businesses that have previously had centralised offices, have seen a big shift in behaviour. Driven by the need to work from home during the lockdown in April and May, many businesses magically discovered that they can actually function perfectly well with their employees working from home. The flow-on effects of all this is reducing traffic on the roads, lighter peak traffic loads, flexible hours and, of course, larger businesses wondering why they’ve been renting all this expensive commercial building space. Freelance work is a boom industry as company’s work forces move online instead of in-office.

The red light industries

The reality has certainly hit home for tens of thousands of Thailand’s sex workers. Although not officially recognised in Thailand, prostitution has been a huge local underground (and not-so-underground) industry in the past, creating its own micro-economy involving locals and international tourists.

Without official government acknowledgment, the jobs of Thai sex workers are not recognised and their salaries vanish once the bars and borders close. No rights, no unemployment pay. The number of prostitutes in Thailand is upwards of 100,000, and these workers have had to head home, many back to the northern and northeast provinces. Thailand’s red light districts were locked down for almost 3 months and bars and clubs, and the bar girls and boys, have been struggling ever since.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

More categories of foreigners to be granted entry to Thailand

Maya Taylor

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More categories of foreigners to be granted entry to Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chuttersnap on Unsplash

“…business people on a non-immigrant visa but without a work permit can enter, provided they can show savings of at least 500,000 baht over the previous 6 months.”

The Thai government is expanding the groups of foreigners who can enter Thailand, after a meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday. CCSA spokesman Taweesin Visanuyothin says athletes competing in tournaments held in the Kingdom will also be given permission to enter.

It’s understood the first group to arrive will be cyclists taking part in a royal marathon cycling event, as well as badminton players coming for a world tour taking place in Thailand in January 2021.

In addition to sports people, Nation Thailand reports that business people on a non-immigrant visa but without a work permit can enter, provided they can show savings of at least 500,000 baht over the previous 6 months.

At yesterday’s meeting, the government also approved the Special Tourist Visa, with the PM asking officials from the Tourism and Foreign Ministries to agree a context and guidelines that would put Thailand’s interests first. Tourists desperate to return to Thailand, and happy to put up with the bureaucracy and cost involved, should contact their nearest Thai Embassy to enquire about the STV.

Additional information can be found HERE, at the website of the Thailand Longstay Company, set up specifically to handle the enquiries relating to the STV.

The Thailand Longstay Company was established in 2001 with the endorsement of the Thai Royal Government to support long stay tourism. As the Tourism Authority of Thailand is a major shareholder of the company, we aim to provide the best services to retired expatriates to promote the tourism industry of the Kingdom of Thailand.

Since the establishment, the company has signed many MOU with many government organisations such as the Immigration Bureau, Tourist Police, and the Airports of Thailand.

Therefore, we specialize in doing a 1-year retirement visa and STV visa for foreigners and other matters related to the immigration procedure of Thailand. We will go through the bureaucratic procedure for our clients. This is the ultimate convenience that we provide.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman says 150 approved foreigners are expected to arrive at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, beginning October 8. Holders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Travel Card, who hail from “low-risk” countries, can now also Thailand. These include Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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