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No Aussie dollars in Thailand for at least 3 months

The Thaiger

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No Aussie dollars in Thailand for at least 3 months | The Thaiger

As Thailand starts to poke its head out over the Covid-19 parapet and look towards its travel future, there is at least one country that won’t be lining up at Thai immigration any time soon.

Australians, an enduring stalwart of Thai tourism traffic, are banned from leaving the shores of the land downunder for at least another 3 months. The travel ban came in on March 18 preventing Australians from heading overseas and was initially a three month ban as the country stepped up efforts to control the local Covid-19 pandemic. The extended blanket ban now forbids Australians to fly out of the country until September 17.

Between 500-800,000 Australians have travelled to Thailand every year over the past decade.

However, exceptions are soon likely to be made for New Zealand travellers and other countries that have the virus under control in a bid to get at least some tourists returning along with international business travel.

But Australia’s tourism operators and potential travellers are becoming increasingly frustrated as the date for the return to quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand keeps getting pushed down the road.

Australian PM Scott Morrison and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern flagged the possibility of creating a “trans-Tasman travel bubble” (the Tasman Sea separates the two countries). However, a launch of the bubble is being held back, partly due to interstate travel restrictions remaining within Australia.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the establishment of a travel bubble between the two southern nations is waiting for the Australia’s poorest performing state (in regards to control of Covid-19).

“Let’s not restrain the movement between our two countries based on the slowest state in Australia.”

Australians and New Zealanders typically spend billions of dollars in cross-country trade and travel every year, and with New Zealand’s economy forecast to contract by around 9% in 2020, Wellington is especially keen to re-establish flights between the two.

Australia’s Health Department says the extension of the travel ban is to “ensure the Australian government continues to have an appropriate range of powers available to manage the ongoing pandemic ­response”.

“The outgoing travel restriction on Australian citizens and permanent residents is currently in effect for the duration of the emergency period.”

“Amending these restrictions, for example to enable travel to New Zealand, is a decision for both governments that will be made in due course, when the public health risk is ­assessed as being sufficiently safe.”

The Australian government has refused to set a date for the blanket travel ban to end and has on several occasions implied it will last the rest of 2020.

Australia, mostly, has the coronavirus under control, but the world situation is still in a growth phase with the number of new cases now starting to accelerate again, particularly in the new hotspots of Brazil, Russia and India. In the US, the country is still submerged in a battle between re-opening its economy and the needs of public health. Fresh spikes in California, Florida and Texas are causing new headaches for the state governors.

Australia’s borders have been shut to all international arrivals except for citizens and permanent residents since March 20. Anyone allowed to enter Australia, including repatriates on specially organised charter flights, are required to stay in hotel quaratine for 14 days. The Australian government pays for the quarantine.

SOURCES: The Australian | Daily Mail

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Cabinet approves budget of over 6.3 billion baht for 35 million more vaccine doses

Maya Taylor

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Cabinet approves budget of over 6.3 billion baht for 35 million more vaccine doses | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Hakan Nural for UnSplash

The Thai government has approved a budget of 6.387 billion baht to procure an additional 35 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines. The budget was approved at a Cabinet meeting yesterday, according to a government spokesperson.

Nation Thailand reports that the budget will be divided into 5.6 billion baht, which will be spent on AstraZeneca vaccines, with 700 million baht going on preparation and rollout at a local level. It’s understood officials expect to take delivery of the new consignment at the same time as it receives the 26 million AstraZeneca doses and 2 million Sinovac doses already on order.

In total, this will give Thailand 63 million doses, enough to vaccinate 60% of the population. It’s understood the Public Health Ministry is also in talks with other vaccine manufacturers. Johnson & Johnson has already begun the process of applying to register its single-dose vaccine in the Kingdom. Thailand currently has a limited number of vaccine doses, with high-risk provinces and groups being given priority. The government plans to open vaccine registration to general members of the public in May.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Governor of Samut Sakhon recovering from Covid-19 after more than 40 days on ventilator

Maya Taylor

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Governor of Samut Sakhon recovering from Covid-19 after more than 40 days on ventilator | The Thaiger
PHOTO: National News Bureau of Thailand

The governor of the central province of Samut Sakhon is slowly recovering after more than 2 months battling Covid-19. Weerasak Wichitsangsri tested positive for the virus in late December and subsequently ended up on a ventilator for over 40 days. It’s understood Weerasak’s time on the ventilator was a record for the hospital and at times, medics were unsure if he would recover.

Prasit Watanapa from the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital says Weerasak is now off the ventilator and able to breathe normally, as well as talking, walking, and eating unaided. The Pattaya News reports that the governor’s symptoms improved over the last week, but he remains under close medical supervision. Prasit says he will be tested for antibodies, to determine if he should receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

“Only his muscle functions still need to be treated. The medical team is considering if the governor could have his rehabilitation at home or at Siriraj Hospital. It all depends on his further recovery.”

Weerasak has now been in hospital for more than 2 months, after testing positive for the virus on December 28, after attending a meeting at Samut Sakhon hospital. The central province is seen as the epicentre of the second wave of the virus, which emerged late last year. Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, who was also at the meeting, had to self-isolate following Weerasak’s diagnosis.

SOURCE: The Pattaya News

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Thai PM orders Foreign Ministry to conduct vaccine passport study

Maya Taylor

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Thai PM orders Foreign Ministry to conduct vaccine passport study | The Thaiger
PHOTO: TTR Weekly

The Thai PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha, says the government will look into the possibility of a vaccine passport policy, with discussions set to take place on Monday. The PM has asked the Foreign Ministry to carry out a study on the use of vaccine passports, but adds that there is no guarantee such a system would work at international level.

“So, at this point, I have ordered a study to be conducted around this idea in preparation for (a future use of it) so that Thailand will be able to keep up with other countries. Opinions about the Covid-19 vaccine passport system still vary, even in Thailand.”

Meanwhile, Opas Karnkawinpong from the Department of Disease Control says Monday’s meeting of the National Communicable Diseases Council will include a discussion on vaccine passports and the possibility of reducing the mandatory quarantine period. It’s understood the Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, has asked that everybody vaccinated in Thailand be provided with a certification of vaccination to help with any overseas travel plans.

Opas says he’s unsure about vaccinated people who want to come to Thailand, pointing out that the World Health Organisation has not yet outlined any criteria for vaccine passports. He adds that international talks and mutual agreements may need to be put in place first.

“The mandatory quarantine measures in Thailand will be based on the incubation period of the virus, which cannot be determined yet as nobody knows how the vaccine will affect it. The incubation period can be longer or shorter, as vaccines currently do not provide 100% protection. This will also be discussed at the meeting.”

Some countries, such as the US, the UK, and EU member states are understood to be considering a digital vaccine passport, although others have voiced objection to such a plan, questioning the efficacy of vaccines and whether they offer total protection.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Nation Thailand

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