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South Korea reverses reopening amid new Covid-19 outbreaks

Jack Burton

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South Korea reverses reopening amid new Covid-19 outbreaks | The Thaiger
PHOTO: VOA News
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Less than a month after relaxing physical distancing requirements on May 6, South Korea is restoring the measures in the greater Seoul area, including Incheon and Gyeonggi provinces, until at least June 14, as new flare-ups of Covid-19 emerge across the metropolitan region. Its daily tally jumped to 79, the highest since early April.

Making the announcement yesterday, South Korea’s Health Minister said the measures are meant to curb the spread preemptively so in-person classes can resume normally for students. South Korea reported 79 cases in the 24 hours ending midnight Wednesday, the highest single-day daily increase since April 5. Nearly 90% of the new cases were from local transmission, according to health officials.

Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s deputy director said in a briefing yesterday that, as most of the recent patients are young people, none of their cases is severe so far.

“3 weeks since the first case linked to Itaewon nightclubs was discovered earlier this month, the infections have spread mainly via high-risk spaces such as bars, karaoke lounges, restaurants, religious establishments and big workplaces”

At least 7 workers at a call centre in central Seoul have been confirmed with the disease as of yesterday with all of the employees and their contacts undergoing testing. 82 people with ties to a logistics center in Gyeonggi province have tested positive since the first case there was identified on Monday.

The mayor of Bucheon, a satellite city of Seoul, said in-person classes will be suspended again except for high school seniors, and that high-risk communal spaces will be allowed restricted operations only. In a Facebook post yesterday, the mayor cautioned against coronavirus blame game.

“Coronavirus is nobody’s fault, and getting sick is no cause for blame.”

The health minister said in a Central Disaster Management Headquarters meeting Thursday that the lack of safety precautions in the workplace seems attributable for the outbreak at the logistics centre.

“Virus countermeasures such as wearing face masks and taking leave when feeling sick do not appear to be have been followed at the said facilities.”

Health officials launched inspections at logistics facilities across the country after the Bucheon outbreak to locate on Thursday another such centre in Goyang, a city north of Seoul, with an infected employee. The Goyang center has since been shut down.

The KCDC likewise underscored the need for tighter measures to reduce physical contact in workplaces.

“Installing partitions at cafeterias, or stationing desks a safe distance apart from each other are examples of such efforts”

Experts are divided over prospects of the fresh outbreaks evolving into a second wave. An infectious disease expert at Seoul’s Hallym University Hospital said in a Facebook statement that the virus trend appears to be “taking an ominous turn.”

“Had a similar development taken place in fall or winter, I would have said ‘the next wave’ was highly probable. Based on common understanding of respiratory viruses such as the common cold, a cascade of patients such as that witnessed in late February is not likely this time, I would say. But then again, this is an unknown virus that majority of people don’t have immunity against. Nothing can be said with certainty.”

SOURCES: Nation Thailand | Korea Herald

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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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Thailand

Poll shows majority of Thais still worry about coronavirus

Jack Burton

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Poll shows majority of Thais still worry about coronavirus | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thailand Medical News

Although there have been no locally transmitted Covid-19 cases in Thailand for 41 days, a majority of locals are still worried about the spread of the virus, according to the most recent survey by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University, better know simply as the Suan Dusit Poll.

The survey was conducted between July 1-4, on 1,109 people throughout the kingdom to gather their opinions on the Covid-19 crisis, now that the government has loosened many restrictions and is allowing people to travel to their home provinces during the July 4-6 long weekend.

When asked if they still worry about the coronavirus spread now that there have been no domestic infections for over a month, 52.9% said they still worry about it but to a lesser degree; around 29.9% said they worry about it as much as before; 12.4% no longer worry about it and 4.7% said they worry more.

The highest number, 39.4%, expect the Covid-19 situation to return to normal by the end of the year; 27.9% said mid-2021; 23.9% by the end of 2021 and 8.7% said it’s was hard to predict, but the situation might improve if a vaccine becomes available.

Asked what they want the government to do after the situation improves, 77.5% said it should remain strictly vigilant against the virus; 71.8% want it to introduce more remedial measures; 69.4% want the government to concentrate on creating jobs; 65.6% want it to help people who have been laid off and 57.3% said they want it to promote domestic tourism.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Thai PM expresses concern over “travel bubbles”

Jack Burton

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Thai PM expresses concern over “travel bubbles” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod English

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed serious concerns about the resumption of international travel under the “travel bubble” scheme, stressing that Thailand must implement a vigorous arrivals screening protocol. The scheme is a proposed limited resumption of international travel to and from countries with a reciprocal agreement.

The Thai government has indicated it has taken a risk-averse stance with future Covid-19 legislation after largely getting the local outbreak under control in late May, early June. There hasn’t been a locally transmitted case in Thailand for 40 days.

Prayut discussed the proposed scheme with the media, saying Thailand must be prepared to allow the resumption of some international travel, with the other countries involved to be carefully considered, and adding that a full agreement must be reached, to ensure compliance with public health measures at the national level.

The PM says the government is concerned about the prospects of international aviation and the country’s external revenue.

During this long weekend, the Ministry of Finance expects up to 10 billion baht in cash flow from domestic economic activities. The PM says Thais are now making more domestic trips, with many hotels reporting a slow return of customers, thanks to the further easing of Covid-19 restrictions. But tourist locations, like Pattaya and Phuket, remain quiet due to their popularity with foreign visitors.

The PM stressed that all businesses “must remain strict with their precautionary measures in order to minimise the risk of a new outbreak of the virus”.

SOURCE: Press Release from Thai National News Bureau

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World

Thailand gets quarantine “red light” from UK, “green light” from EU

Jack Burton

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Thailand gets quarantine “red light” from UK, “green light” from EU | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Evening Standard

Despite reaching 41 days without a locally transmitted case of Covid-19, Thailand is still designated as a “red light” country and Thais arriving in England will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Updated guidelines published on the UK Government website on Friday list 59 countries and territories for which no quarantine will apply, starting July 10. Thailand, earlier included in the list, has now been deleted.

“If you have been to or stopped in a country that is not on the travel corridors exemption list you will have to self-isolate until 14 days have passed since you left that country.”

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will each announce their own separate rules depending on how the new regulations work in England.

Unsurprisingly, the US, Brazil and India are not on the “travel corridors exemption list,” but neither is Thailand, despite earlier reports it would be, and despite its success in eliminating local transmission of the virus. The list will be subject to regular reviews.

Thailand is one of just 15 countries to which the EU has agreed to open its borders. The UK government has put Thailand on a separate list of countries deemed “safe for citizens to visit”, but anyone returning from a trip to Thailand will still have to endure the 14 day quarantine.

Asian nations on the UK exemption list include Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong, who have all brought Covid-19 transmission under control, though there have been some scattered outbreaks of new cases in Japan and Korea.

Under the new rules, a “traffic-light system” – red, orange and green – will be used for different countries depending on their coronavirus contagion levels.

‘Orange’ countries will have reciprocal arrangements in place with England, while green countries, such as New Zealand, are deemed safer than England. Orange countries include France, Italy and Spain, which are among the most popular holiday destinations for Britons.

But the US, with over a quarter of the world’s infections, and Greece, another popular travel destination, will be designated with a red light, requiring 14 days of self-isolation.

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Thai Examiner

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