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Thailand News Today | 427 new C19 infections, Pattaya countdown cancelled, Elite Visa update | Dec 22

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Plenty of talk around today about future lockdowns, but NOTHING IS CONFIRMED at this stage. The Thaiger will keep you up to date with the latest.

Possibility of an “end of year travel boost” has been shattered

As if things weren’t already bad enough for Thailand’s tourism sector, the events in Samut Sakhon in the past week have just made them a lot worse. Just as the few hotels open in Thailand’s major tourist hot spots were hoping for a bounce in traffic over Christmas and New Year, the hopes have been largely dashed by the outbreak in Samut Sakhon and threats of impending lockdowns and restrictions as the outbreak extends beyond the provincial borders.

5 people in Bangkok are among 427 new Covid-19 infections reported today by the CCSA. 397 of the new cases are migrant workers while 14 of the new cases were detected in quarantine from people arriving from overseas. Many of the local cases are link to the seafood market in Samut Sakhon, just southwest of Bangkok, a Covid-19 hotspot where over 1,000 have now tested positive for the virus over the weekend.

3 shops in Bangkok’s popular Siam Square have now been closed due to links to the Samut Sakhon outbreak. Officials are holding back on any additional lockdowns at this stage. We’ll have all the latest details on the matter at thethaiger.com

Pattaya cancels end of years countdown celebrations

Pattaya officials have cancelled all public gatherings planned over the next few weeks. A Chonburi provincial order has banned the events, including the 3 day Pattaya New Year Countdown Music Festival. All other provincial countdowns have also been cancelled as a precaution against the current outbreak in Samut Sakhon which is now spreading to neighbouring provinces, including Bangkok.

The cancellation of the events is a huge disappointment to Pattaya’s tourism industry. Many of the hotels were nearly fully booked for the event.

Crowd gatherings are now also banned at temples, mosques and churches in Chon Buri.

The Chon Buri officials have also announced restrictions on fresh markets, indoor shopping malls, merchant shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, and pubs and bars.

Amnesty International campaign urges PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to drop charges pressed on protesters

The human rights group Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling on PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to drop charges pressed on a number of activists for their role in the pro-democracy movement and protests. They’re also asking for the repeal, or at least amendment, of Thailand’s draconian lèse majesté law which carries a punishment of 3 to 15 years in prison for insulting or defaming the Thai Monarchy.

According to the campaign, at least 220 people, including minors, face criminal charges relating to their actions in the pro-democracy protests. Activists have been calling on both government reform and reform in the role of the Thai monarchy, raising issues considered taboo and unprecedented in Thai society.

30 property developers expected to sign up to Elite visa incentive scheme

The president of Thailand Privilege Card, which runs the Elite Visa scheme, says around 30 real-estate developers have already expressed interest in offering foreign buyers 5 year visas in return for investing at least 10 million baht in Thai property. The scheme, known as the Elite Flexible One launches on January 1.

Already developer Raimon Land has joined the scheme with 3 luxury condo developments and expects to hand out at least 200 Elite cards. A further 30 developers say they’re also interested in joining the scheme.

Elite privilege cards are currently priced from 500,000 baht up to 2 million baht, although the lower price membership is set to increase to 600,000 baht from January 1.

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Tourism

Record number of tourism firms quitting Covid-ravaged sector for good

Maya Taylor

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Record number of tourism firms quitting Covid-ravaged sector for good | The Thaiger
PHOTO: MGN

As the devastating economic effects of Covid-19 restrictions persist, a record number of Thai tourism operators are quitting the sector for good. The number of tourism firms surrendering their licences peaked last month, and around 70% of outbound agents have shut up shop indefinitely. The final nail in their collective coffin has been the Covid-19 resurgence, which originated in a seafood market in the central province of Samut Sakhon and has now spread to over 60 provinces.

The president of the Thai Travel Agents Association says around 10% of outbound tour operators have returned their licences to the Tourism Department. Suthiphong Pheunphiphop says 2,598 tourism operators have left the sector for good, unable to survive having no international tourists for nearly a year now. He says the last quarter of 2020 saw the highest number of companies de-registering, at 765. Of those, 293 quit last month.

Suthiphong says domestic tourism may pick up again by April, but this depends on how effective the government is at bringing the second wave of the virus under control. He adds that with the arrival of spring in many parts of the world in the coming months, global infections may fall, but it’s still a waiting game.

“Operators have to wait and see how things turn out in June The outlook for the outbound market is the most difficult to predict as the industry faces highly uncertain factors such as vaccine efficacy and policies in each destination to allow the flow of tourists.”

The TTAA says that in 2019, 11 million Thai tourists spent 430 billion baht on overseas trips. Last year, that plummeted to 1 million spending 50 billion baht. The association has postponed the Thai International Travel Fair, which was due to take place in February. It is now scheduled for August 26 – 29.

According to a Bangkok Post report, the Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn will meet Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin this week, in order to discuss a co-payment scheme to protect those employed in the tourism industry. It’s understood the proposal is to subsidise 50% of monthly salaries, up to a maximum of 7,500 baht per employee.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai FDA expected to approve AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai FDA expected to approve AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use | The Thaiger
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In the midst of a new wave of Covid-19 infections, the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is expected to be approved for emergency use and injections could begin next month, starting with vulnerable groups who are in the 5 coastal provinces under maximum control to contain the coronavirus.

The Food and Drug Administration us expected to approve the vaccine for emergency use this week. The FDA is examining documents as part of the registration process and to declare the vaccine’s efficacy and safety, according to the Ministry of Public Health’s Disease Control Department director general Opas Karnkawinpong.

Thailand had earlier secured 26 million doses of the vaccine, which is developed by British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and the UK’s Oxford University. The Thai company Siam Bioscience is set to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine. Injections for the general public are projected to start in the second half of 2021.

Since the latest wave of coronavirus infections, starting with the outbreak at a Samut Sakhon seafood market last month, Thailand also secured 2 million doses of China’s Sinovac BioTech vaccine. The first batch of 200,000 doses is expected to arrive next month. 800,000 more doses will arrive in March and 1 million doses in April.

“At risk” groups in the 5 coastal provinces with maximum disease control measures will receive the vaccine first. Those provinces are Samut Sakhon, Chon Buri, Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat. People over 60 years old and those with chronic illnesses are given top priority.

With reports in Norway of elderly, highly frail recipients dying sometime after getting the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine, Thai health officials are insisting that only vaccines that are proven will be safe will be administered to Thai people.

Opas says that after vaccination, the health officials will follow up with recipients at least 4 weeks after injection to record and investigate any allergic reactions or complications.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thailand

Government in control of Mor Chana app, says user data will be kept private

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Government in control of Mor Chana app, says user data will be kept private | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS World

The Thai government is taking full control of the Mor Chana application, which is used to trace Covid-19 infections and alert users if they are in a high risk area. The Digital Economy and Society Minister says the government will still be working closely with the app developers, adding that users can be assured that their data will be kept private.

The Mor Chana Volunteer Team, the app developer, made a post on their Facebook page saying the Mor Chana contact tracing application will be 100% under government management and control from now. The team will be responsible only for the open source programme development. The post has prompted public comments about the reason behind the application handover to the government.

Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta says the government will take full responsibility for the application management and control measures, but the collaboration with the app developers will continue. The developer team’s announcement is just to inform the public about the app.

He also says some app functions will be redesigned and adjusted to be more friendly to use and won’t violate users’ data privacy. Personal information such as users’ names and mobile numbers for registration won’t be required anymore.

SOURCE: Post Today

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