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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pattaya all but deserted due to virus, travel restrictions

Jack Burton

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PHOTO: A vendo stands on a deserted Pattaya beach - Jakarta Post

For years, Pattaya has struggled to shed its seedy image as a haven of sex tourism, which started in the 1970s when it became a rest and relaxation spot for US soldiers during the Vietnam War. It’s continued to develop into a much more diverse city with world standard attractions offsetting the seedier bars and walking streets.

Now it faces a much bigger threat.

Pattaya’s beaches are deserted, go-go bars sit empty and cabarets have shut their doors as business has ground to a standstill after worldwide travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

As one of the world’s most famous, perhaps infamous, tourist hotspots, the economic devastation is almost total. Business owners say haven’t seen anything like it for four decades. One cabaret owner said…

“Our organisation has halted business 100%. Pattaya is a tourist city, we rely mostly on them. The whole city is affected by the virus.”

In normal times, his theatre, featuring high-kicking dancing girls with elaborate feather headdresses and sequined dresses, sees more than a thousand tourists daily. Now there are literaly none. While the cabaret isn’t planning on laying off its staff for now, the future seems grim. Thailand overall depends on tourism for around 12% of its GDP (some reports claim up to 17%), but in Pattaya, nearly the entire economy runs on visitors, either semi-permanent or on holiday.

Pattaya saw over 15 million visitors in 2018, according to a 2019 government report, already a 20% drop from the previous year.

“I would say that this is the worst that has ever hit Pattaya. And during the past two to three weeks, so many businesses have already folded, have already gone bankrupt, closed down due to the coronavirus.”

SOURCE: Reuters

 

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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.

Krabi

Krabi tourism operators call for vaccination ramp up, clarity on national park rules

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: A beach restaurant on Koh Lanta waits for the return of foreign tourists

With Krabi eyeing October 1 for a re-opening to vaccinated foreign tourists, operators in the region are calling for greater clarity and for vaccination to be ramped up. Ekawit Pinyotamanotai from the Krabi Tourism Association says tourism workers need to be prioritised for vaccination and there is a need for clarity on regulations governing national parks.

The Krabi sandbox model covers Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Ao Nang, and Railay Bay, which are all hoping to open to vaccinated travellers and reboot their decimated economies. The Bangkok Post reports that Ekawit is calling for a ramp-up of vaccination efforts in the region, saying this is crucial to rebuilding confidence among locals and tourists alike.

According to Ekawit, between 40,000 and 80,000 workers in the tourism sector in Ao Nang, Railay, Lanta, and Phi Phi need to be prioritised for Covid-19 vaccination. Krabi’s vaccine rollout is expected to kick off next month, with officials aiming to administer between 8,000 and 10,000 doses a day in the first stage.

Ekawit says there has been interest in the province from travel agents in Scandinavian countries, as well as Germany and the UK. However, with 90% of tourist attractions being located in areas designated as national parks, he points out that there is an urgent need for the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department to clarify the regulations applicable to these sites.

Furthermore, he says the sudden closure of places like Maya Bay make it extremely challenging for operators to plan itineraries in advance. He says that while operators appreciate a need for periods of rehabilitation, the department must implement more practical solutions to manage visitor capacity, including clarifying how long tourists can spend on islands and beaches.

“Operators agree natural resources need rehabilitation, but the closures require more clarification.”

Meanwhile, the president of the Krabi Tourism Association, Sasithorn Kittidhrakul, says businesses are calling for an extension to the domestic tourism stimulus package to cover low periods such as August and September. She points out that such an extension would give businesses in places like Koh Lanta a chance to make some money, given that they cannot open to international tourists until October.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pfizer vaccine OK for US children 12-15, critics urge better use

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Children age 12-15 now deemed safe to received the Pfizer vaccine. (by Wikimedia)

While drug regulators authorised Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 15 in the US, critics are saying that the jabs would be more useful if sent to poor countries. The American Food and Drug Administration cleared the vaccine on Monday, saying that it was safe for children over the age of 12, and the US Centres for Disease Control will now convene an advisory committee to discuss the formal recommendation. But there are many countries where very vulnerable people still have not had access to any vaccine. Children are considered to have a minimal risk for Covid-19.

The head of the World Health Organisation spoke critically against vaccine diplomacy, the red tape and international negotiation that is slowing the distribution and administering of vaccines to other countries in need. The United States is one of many wealthy nations that have been able to quickly spread the vaccine throughout its population, with over 115 million people already fully vaccinated. The American economy is the world’s biggest, and thanks to the rapid vaccination, governmental authorities have begun to loosen restrictions related to Covid-19 and begin to revive the ailing economy.

President Joe Biden hailed the vaccine approval for children aged 12 to 15, saying that it was a promising development and will help the country fight against the Coronavirus. But the United States has been coming under increased pressure to aid in getting vaccines to less fortunate countries with greater need. The United States has recently joined the push to convince Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers to release their intellectual property rights in order to allow other nations to produce vaccines locally.

Here in Thailand, Americans have been calling for the United States government to make arrangements for expats and citizens abroad to get vaccinated when they’re in countries that do not provide them with vaccines. At the same time, many frustrated Thai people with the means to travel to the US are participating in vaccine tourism, planning American vacations where they can get vaccinated.

The head of the European Medicines Agency believes that the EU will also approve the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 15, possibly within this month. The move will further help vaccination efforts it hopes to jumpstart European economies. As Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted, the Justice Minister in Spain reminded people the coronavirus is not gone and they need to behave responsibly following the end of a six-month state of emergency there. People had responded by dropping masks and social distancing protocol to celebrate in the streets. Greece has reopened schools for younger children up to middle school and hopes to remain open from May 14th for the tourism season. Ireland also revoked domestic travel bans allowing people to move around the country more freely again.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Wednesday Covid UPDATE: 24 deaths and 1,983 new infections

Tim Newton

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The Thai public health ministry is reporting an additional 34 Covid-related deaths and 1,983 new infections from the past 24 hours of Bangkok and provincial reports. We’ll post all the provincial numbers just after lunch when they become available.

• Bangkok health officials are aiming to get around 70% of the Bangkok’s residents – about 5 million people – vaccinated within 2 months.

Yesterday PM Prayut Chan-o-cha noted that the number of people registering for vaccinations with the government had fallen below target.

• Krabi’s tourism operators are urging the government to push forward with local vaccination plans and commit to regulations for the province’s national parks so they can proceed with plans to re-open on October 1.

Ekawit Pinyotamanotai, president of the Krabi Tourism Association, says that “vaccine readiness is the key factor to build the confidence of locals and tourists”.

• The Marine Department is imposing strict new social distancing and regular cleaning aboard boats on the capital’s main canal routes for passenger ferries. They are also ordering more frequent services to spread out the load on each boat.

Boat operators will now add more trips during the morning rush hour from 7am to 8.30am and in the evening from 4:30pm to 6pm. The service frequency will increase from 5-7 minutes to 2-3 minutes to prevent crowding on both boats and piers – Nation Thailand

 

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