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Singapore battles to control new surge in Covid-19 cases

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Singapore battles to control new surge in Covid-19 cases | The Thaiger
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The tiny island state, earlier seen as a vanguard for Covid-19 containment, has now seen a recent spike in cases pushing it to the top of the list in south east Asia’s tally of total number of cases.

Singapore yesterday recorded 1,426 new COVID-19 infections, bringing its total to 8,014 (as of 9am Thai time) in a population of just 5.6 million people. It’s now exceeded Indonesia with the highest number of reported cases in south east Asia.

Just 5 weeks ago the prosperous city-state was winning plaudits as a model of successful virus containment without lockdowns. Mass testing, quick hospitalisation the infected, aggressive tracing and quarantining of anyone in contact with infected people, helped keep numbers down.

But since then there has been a new trajectory of cases. Authorities quickly responded by tightening entry restrictions and imposed a partial lockdown, and strict protocols on social distancing. The ‘second wave’ has mostly been because of a surge in transmission among foreign workers over the past two weeks. It’s mostly migrant men, working in construction or other low-paying, manual labour jobs, who stay in the dorms.

Singapore battles to control new surge in Covid-19 cases | News by The Thaiger

Last week, authorities said all dormitories housing foreign workers, about 300,000 people, mostly from Bangladesh, China and India, will be under near-total lockdown. Over the weekend, the numbers kept climbing. But among the cases reported yesterday are 18 Singaporeans or permanent residents.

As one of the wealthiest per-capita nations in the world, many Singaporean businesses employ foreign workers for jobs that most Singaporeans refuse to do. Indonesian, Malaysian and Filipino maids have been working as migrant domestic workers for decades.

Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong says that Singapore needs time to “break the chain of transmission” in the migrant worker dormitories. He wrote that those who are ill will be taken care of.

“Fortunately, the vast majority of the cases are mild, because the workers are young.”

Singapore has recorded 11 deaths from Covid-19 so far, fewer than almost every other south east Asian country, excepting Laos and Vietnam which have both recorded 0 deaths.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Opening borders could cause a second Covid-19 outbreak, epidemiologist says

Caitlin Ashworth

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Opening borders could cause a second Covid-19 outbreak, epidemiologist says | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai Post

Opening Thailand’s borders to foreign tourists may open a “Pandora’s box” of Covid-19 infections, according to leading epidemiologist on the Chulalongkorn University Faculty of Medicine Thira Woratanarat. After a 6 month ban on international tourists, the first group of travellers on the new Special Tourist Visa are set to fly from China to Phuket on October 8. Thira says the move puts the country at risk of a second coronavirus outbreak.

“If the country decides to take risks, everyone must rely on themselves because this is a war between virus and humans and people need to survive… The country will be a new endemic area if the government cannot contain the spread of the disease effectively. And even if there is a Covid-19 vaccine, it might be too late.”

The 120 to 150 tourists arriving next week on the Special Tourist Visa are required to quarantine at a state approved facility for 14 days. They are also required to be tested for Covid-19 before their flight and before being released from quarantine.

Thira has been vocal for months on his disapproval for opening the borders to foreign tourists and has stood firmly against proposals like so called “travel bubbles.” He says the coronavirus cases across globe have continued to raise and warns that people in Thailand should still abide by coronavirus prevention measures like wearing a mask.

“Many countries are still under the severe pandemic and have an infection rate 20 times that of Thailand’s, so Thailand will be at a risk of becoming a pandemic hotspot after the country is reopened.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Has Thailand’s suicide rate increased due to Covid-19 restrictions? – VIDEO

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Has Thailand’s suicide rate increased due to Covid-19 restrictions? – VIDEO | The Thaiger

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Before Covid, around the world every 40 seconds someone lost their life to suicide and nearly 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, according to statistics from the WHO.

In Thailand, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds, after road fatalities.

Now, an apparent rise in Thailand’s suicide rate, related to the country’s current business conditions, restrictions and ongoing world pandemic, is concerning health officials.

The Mental Health Department released a report in September indicating 2,551 people in Thailand had killed themselves from January to the end of July, 2020. That is up a palpable 22% compared to the same first 6 months of last year.

Health officials are citing “personal problems, economic pressures, depression and alcohol abuse” for the rise in cases that appear to be linked to Thailand’s current economic woes.

South East Asian suicide rates are generally around 20 to 30 % higher than the global average, and Thailand’s general rate was the highest suicide rate in the South East Asian region before the pandemic.

The Thai Mental Health Department Director General Kiartipoom Wongrachit believes that both isolation and pressures generated by social media have contributed to the rise.

But he also believes that social media is becoming a valuable tool to help identify self-harm behaviour and provide intervention.

“Signs of suicide have been increasing on social media. While some social media platforms have technology that can detect video clips recording self harm or suicides… there are many other signs to look out for that the technology can’t detect.”

He linked the increase in the suicide cases this year to the outbreak of the deadly virus and described the trend as “worrisome”.

A March study by Chiang Mai University also identified 38 suicide attempts that were likely linked to stress associated with the lockdown at the time. 28 of them ended up in deaths.

The research was conducted in the middle of the local lockdowns and restrictions implemented by the Thai government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In June, Oxford University also released a study on the impact of the pandemic on suicide rates in the International Journal of Medicine.

The study found stress from Covid-19 had played a part in the suicide rates and that the problem “could linger after the outbreak ends”.

If you or anyone you know is in emotional distress, please contact the Samaritans of Thailand 24-hour hotline: 02 713 6791 (English), 02 713 6793 (Thai) or the Thai Mental Health Hotline at 1323 (Thai).

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Bangkok’s Khao San Road re-opening for local trade

Maya Taylor

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Bangkok’s Khao San Road re-opening for local trade | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Screengrab - Bangkok Extra

Bangkok’s Deputy Governor Sakoltee Phattiyakul says the capital’s iconic Khao San Road is set to re-open for trade, targeting the local market of Thais and expats. The street is normally a mecca for international tourists, in particular, younger backpackers making the rite-of-passage pilgrimage through Southeast Asia.

There was a pre-Covid botched attempt to meddle with the area’s long-established, and rather endearingly ramshackle, mixture of shops, bars, vendors and scammers. Whilst not particularly popular with the locals, the old Khao San Road was a magnet to tourists. Attempts by the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority to gentrify the area resulted in a number of unsuccessful attempts to tame the traders and bring some order to the busy shopping zone.

But the closure of shops and the lack of tourists from the Covid outbreak provided the break the BMA needed to “sort out” the old Khao San Road and do a make-over for the eventual re-opening of the new Khao San Road.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the street hard, with businesses shut, and a marked absence of the international tourists who normally make up a solid 90% of Khao San’s visitors. Now Sakoltee says it’s time for the street to come back to life, saying vendors will target a new demographic of local Thais and expats whilst the borders remained largely closed.

The Bangkok Post reports that Sakoltee chaired a meeting yesterday to plan the re-opening, which it’s hoped will happen at the end of this month. It’s understood additional vendors who attract local custom will set up shop on the road, with various monthly events to boost visitor numbers.

Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang says areas surrounding the road will get a clean-up, in particular, the Chong Nonsi Khlong, or canal. Officials are planning to turn the waterway and the surrounding area into a visitor attraction, a development project that will take place in 2 stages. The first job is to clean the canal, which is currently home to weeds and rubbish. Aswin has directed 250 municipal workers to begin the clean-up operation. Trees along the canal will also be trimmed regularly, and the canal’s drainage and treatment systems are set to be revamped at some point in the future plan.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Association is also planning to create footpaths along both sides of the canal, a project that will be paid for through donations from local businesses. Aswin hopes to have all works completed by April 2021.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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