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Thailand’s “Wild Boar” vows to save his province

Sean Kelly

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Thailand’s “Wild Boar” vows to save his province | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Narongsak "The Wild Boar" Osotthanakorn - Thai PBS World
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The northern province of Lampang been hit by Covid-19, despite the best efforts of its famous governor, Narongsak Osotthanakorn. Who? Narongsak was the face of the rescue mission to retrieve the 13 young men from the Tham Luang cave two years ago and was the Chiang Rai governor at the time.

“When I heard of the first Covid-19 infection in my province, I almost cried.”

The event made national news and has inspired a popular NOVA documentary now being produced by Netflix called Thai Cave Rescue which will include interviews with the boys and their coach. Here’s a short from the recent film ‘The Cave’…

Narongsak masterfully demonstrated his ability to lead and coordinate the team that saved the boys and their coach, and locals in Lampang were hoping his expertise could protect them from the growing threat of the coronavirus. Until Tuesday of last week, Lampang seemed in the clear. It remained one of the 15 provinces still Covid-19 free.

Narongsak, ever the man of logistics, began preparing since the original outbreaks in Wuhan, China had come to light.

At a recent press conference, he said he was worried that the virus might also spread to Thailand.

“I began talking to people and hospitals to take preventive measures, resources and more.”

“The Boar” rallied his province together in preparation of the coming threat of pandemic even before Thailand suffered the first case. When it was discovered that many struggling from Covid-19 required ventilators, he issued a count be made, discovering there were only 40 in the province and he swiftly ordered 30 more as a precaution.

“I have also procured 300 personal protection kits for those who may be exposed to the virus as part of their work,” he added.

He also examined hospitals’ negative pressure rooms, where infectious patients can be isolated, to determine if Lampang could treat infected patients while not spreading it to others in the facility.

“There were just 10 negative-pressure rooms in the province. But with adjustments made to ICU beds, Lampang now has the capacity to handle up to about 400 patients who may contract Covid-19.”

The Wild Boar hoped that all his preparation would not be needed, however that hope was shattered with the discovery that a woman returned from Bangkok to her home province carrying the virus. The woman, a vendor at a busy Bangkok market, developed symptoms of a sore throat and headache on March 17. Three days later, she flew from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, before taking a van to her hometown in Lampang’s Ngao district.

She isolated herself on the second floor of the family home, allowing only her mother to bring her food. Her self quarentine attempts failed when her mother ended up catching the virus and then passing it on to an elderly relative.

“We have closed off their village to prevent any further spread.”

While admitting it was hard to accept the contagion had reached Lampang despite the tireless work of officials and strong cooperation from locals, the governor said he took comfort in the fact that the source was not a local resident.

“Had it been a local resident, that would have suggested that stringent measures already in place are inadequate. But as the infectious case came from Bangkok, I am convinced that our hard work in the past few months was not completely wasted.”

Narongsak is now rallying his officials and locals to contain and manage the situation.

“Our goal now is to make sure that the number of Covid-19 cases in Lampang does not increase.”

SOURCE: Urisara Kowitdamrong Thai PBS World

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Myanmar reports 15 new Covid-related deaths in the past 24 hours

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Myanmar reports 15 new Covid-related deaths in the past 24 hours | The Thaiger

Myanmar has reported 15 new covid-related deaths over the past 24 hours prompting the Burmese government to re-impose restrictions on domestic travel and transportation quotas across the Thailand-Myanmar border. The current death toll in the nation sits at 75 as of today which includes those with other underlying diseases succumbing to the Covid-19 virus.

The Myanmar health department also added that the country has seen 424 more people testing positive for Covid-19 in yesterday alone-making it the highest amount of daily cases detected since March. The total number of cases so far is now almost 4,300. In response to the influx of new cases, the government has ordered domestic airlines to suspend services until the end of September while only allowing 6 goods transportation trucks to enter Myanmar from Thailand per day. Such a drastic decrease in cross-border quotas has caused a stack up of trucks along the Thai-Myanmar border, forcing some to sell their produce roadside over fears of it going bad.

The latest spike in cases kicked off a month ago and has caused the Thai government to run additional patrols along the long western Thai/Myanmar border in recent weeks.

Myanmar reports 15 new Covid-related deaths in the past 24 hours | News by The Thaiger

Global Covid-19 cases rose by 315,130 in the past 24 hours to 30,702,376. The death toll went up to 955,735. The US had the most cases, at 6,925,941, up by 51,345 with the daily cases on the rise again, and the most deaths at 203,171, up by 958 in the past 24 hours, according to worldometer.info

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

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Updates on the new Special Tourist Visa | Complete Thailand Travel Guide (September 2020)

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Updates on the new Special Tourist Visa | Complete Thailand Travel Guide (September 2020) | The Thaiger

Latest update – September 19. The Thaiger updates information about travelling to and re-entering Thailand. Depending on where you’re coming from, your purpose for visiting Thailand and your country’s own Covid-19 travel restrictions, the situation is changing daily. If you are overseas and wish to come to Thailand your FIRST port of call must be the Royal Thai Embassy in your country before you make any bookings.

Tell us about the new long stay ‘special tourist visa’, the STV.

The Thai cabinet has approved a plan to allow foreign tourists to visit Thailand but they’ll have to agree to mandatory 14 day quarantine and stay for at least 90 days. The new 90 day special tourist visa would be able to be extended twice, for 90 days each time. So, a total of 270 days. It was also announced that travellers would have to arrive on charter flights only, further pushing up the price of potential travel back to Thailand.

“Visitors can arrive for tourism or health services, and they can stay at alternative state quarantine facilities, specific areas or at hospitals that function as quarantine facilities. Our public health system is amongst the best in the world and people can have confidence in it.”

The new ‘STV’ (Special Tourist Visa) which will cost 2,000 baht and will last for 90 days each. The new visa regulation will be in effect until September 30, 2021 and may be extended beyond that time.

The government noted that it doesn’t have the ability to fully re-open to tourism at the moment as they have to be able to process incoming visitors and find approved locations for them to serve their 14 day quarantine.”The target is to welcome 100-300 visitors a week, or up to 1,200 people a month, and generate income of about 1 billion baht a month.”

Thai officials have also said they will only accept tourists from “low risk” countries, without specifying what those countries are.

On Friday, September 18, a director at the Department of Disease Control, said that foreign tourists will have to present proof of a negative Covid-19 test no more than 72 hours prior to travel. Additionally… “they must also have quarantined in their country of origin, have health insurance for international travel and a specified minimum amount of money in their bank account”. He said they will also need a record of “not visiting crowded places prior to their departure”.

The Thaiger will update the details of the new long stay tourist visa as soon as the become available.

Here are the basic published provisions approved by the cabinet…

1. A foreigner who wishes to travel to stay for a long period (Long-stay travel) in Thailand.

2. A foreigner who has acknowledged they are willing to comply with Thailand’s public health measures in Thailand, and agree to conduct a state quarantine at an Alternative Local State Quarantine (ALSQ) for 14 days.

3. A foreigner who provides evidence of long-term residency in Thailand, including evidence of payment for the hotel accommodation or hospital accommodation that provides Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) service in Thailand and at least one piece of the following evidence…

  • Proof of payment for hotel accommodation or hospital accommodation after the state quarantine
  • A copy of ownership of an apartment or condominium belonging to foreigners or family members of foreigners
  • A copy of a rental license or deposit payment of the purchase of apartment, condominium, or house by foreigners in Thailand

What happens to people without a current visa after September 26?

Really, you have 2 options. Leave the country before the amnesty finishes on September 26. Or find a way to extend your visa. If you are unable to leave the country, because of flight issues returning to your country, or some other medical or urgent reason, you should contact your Embassy or Consulate ASAP. They may be able to provide you with a letter recommending an extension of your stay.

The government made it clear, when they extended the amnesty at the end of July, that there will be no further extensions. There are international flights leaving Thailand every day. The flights are expensive and are on limited carriers. But if you HAVE to leave, you can.

BUT, a slight glimmer of hope has emerged after an official at Phuket’s Immigration office said there may be some leniency for people unable to meet the minimum income requirements for a Non-B visa. HERE‘s the story. The suggestion was that there could be some further announcements made about the matter after September 15.

Importantly, if you are unsure about your situation it is vital that you visit a Thai Immigration office or contact a professional visa agent ASAP.

At this stage it is not known if people staying here on the visa amnesty can ‘roll over’ to the new Special Tourist Visa (above), without leaving the country.

How is Thailand doing compared to the rest of the world with it’s re-opening to tourists?

The UN World Tourism Organisation has published its latest update on the state of the world’s re-openings in the Covid-era. 53% of the world’s tourist destinations have now started easing travel restrictions government’s imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The UNWTO reports acknowledges that many destinations “remain cautious” and some are even re-closing borders and tightening up restrictions again.

It’s the 7th edition of the “Covid-19 Related Travel Restrictions: A Global Review for Tourism”and identifies an ongoing global trend to gradually restart the world’s tourism machine. The report analyses restrictions by governments up to September 1. The research covers a total of 115 destinations (53% of all destinations worldwide) have now eased their travel restrictions – that’s an increase of 28 since 19 July. Of these, two have lifted all restrictions, while the remaining 113 continue to have certain restrictive measures in place.

• Another stand-out stat was that in advanced economies, 79% of tourism destinations had already started easing restrictions. In emerging economies, less than half, just 47% of destinations, have started the process.

• 64% of those destinations which have eased have a “high or medium dependence” on airlines to deliver international tourists to their location. Island destinations are particularly at risk at this time as the air lift is critical to their tourist success.

• 43% of all worldwide destinations continue to have their borders completely closed to all tourism, of which 27 destinations have had their borders “completely closed” for at least 7 months.

• Half of all destinations in the survey, with borders completely closed to tourism, are listed as being among the “World’s Most Vulnerable Countries”. They include 10 Small Island Developing States, one Least Developed Country and three Land-Locked Developing Countries.

Should I use a visa agent to extend my visa?

There are plenty of ads being posted at this time offering magic extensions to visas and opportunities to stay in Thailand after September 26. Please be aware that some of these alleged visa agents are scams. There are also plenty of good visa agents who will be able to provide you with advice and solutions, at a cost, allowing you to remain in the country.

If you do wish to contact a visa agent at this time make sure you get a referral from a friend, visit their office in person or ask plenty of questions and check their bonafides. Do not start sending money to accounts until you have seen some paperwork or evidence that they are able to provide you with a legal and professional service. Caveat emptor!

I had a retirement visa and have lived in Thailand for many years. When can I return?

Soon, it seems. The next batch of returnee categories is now being considered by the CCSA. This time, foreigners with permanent residences who have been stranded overseas for the past 6 months, and long-term foreign residents (retirement visa), will receive priority when the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration announces the next date for the next phase of lifting the shutters on Thailand’s borders.

The chairman of the CCSA’s panel, who oversea the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, announced that the panel will recommend these two groups of foreigners back into Thailand “as they have high purchasing power”.

Both groups would still have to undergo the mandatory state-controlled 14 day quarantine. It’s under the quarantine that so many Thai repatriates have been found to have Covid-19 during the series of tests they undergo.

As of today there has been no official date announced for the commencement of this program.

If you believe you fall into either of these categories, contact your local Thai Embassy or consulate to discuss your circumstances BEFORE you purchase a ticket or make any other arrangements.

Is it safe in Thailand at the moment?

Yes. No less safe than usual and certainly there has been no civil unrest that would make you ponder your personal safety beyond the usual precautions you would take anywhere in the world. The current student protests are fairly limited and are publicised ahead of time so you can avoid those situations. Whilst there has been some outbursts against foreigners from a Thai politician and a few stressed-out locals, the situation for foreigners remains safe and secure at this time.

What happened to the Phuket Model?

It was a non-starter after the government encountered resistance from some in Phuket. It was also not well received by travellers and many in the local hospitality industry.

At this stage, a model to allow limited tourists to re-enter the country, on extended tourist visas, with some restrictions, is being hammered out by the CCSa in conjunction with the Public Health Department, TAT and Ministry of Sports and Tourism. Nothing has been decided at this stage.

Are there any Facebook pages where I can share my story about wanting to come back to Thailand?

The ‘Love Is Not Tourism Thailand’ Facebook page, which includes families torn apart by the pandemic, is calling on the Thai government to help reunite their families.

“We’re asking the government to issue visas or allow entry for family members and lovers to reunite with each other for humanitarian reasons. Evidence such as a passport with an entry stamp into Thailand, photos, and text messages should be able to verify their unions.”

I have been stranded in Thailand since April. Now I have run out of money and don’t know what to do.

This is a really difficult situation and you’d be well advised to contact your friends and family, and advise them of your predicament. Also, you MUST contact your country’s embassy or consulate to alert them of the situation. They will at least have information about repatriating you to your home country or perhaps other options that may be available.

Just hoping your situation is going to improve won’t work. Get as much information as you can about your options. And hopefully your family or friends can send you some funds to tide you over during this crazy time. Chock dee krub!

The airlines are selling tickets to fly to Thailand now. Should I buy one?

No. Don’t buy a ticket for a flight to Thailand until you have ALL the paperwork required, have discussed your trip with your local embassy and you have been approved for travel. Why the airlines keep selling tickets, for flights that will be cancelled, is a mystery.

There are currently no plans to open Thailand’s borders for international tourism beyond proposals for a limited opening for tourism into Phuket called the Phuket Model. It was proposed to start in October but no decisions have been made.

Which leads us to the next question….

When will Thailand open its borders for international tourism?

Both the Civil Aviation Authority and a Deputy Governor from the TAT have stated that it is unlikely that the borders will be reopened for general tourism until 2021. But there is now the new Special Tourist Visa which allows tourists to visit for 90 days at a time (extendable twice for a total of 270 days), at a cost of 2,000 baht per application or extension. There’s more information about the Special Tourist Visa at the top of the page.

Would a Thailand Elite Visa solve my problems?

Yes and no. The Elite Visa program is an excellent and convenient means of staying in Thailand with few problems, allowing you to avoid visits to Immigration and most of the paperwork. But it’s an expensive up-front costs and, for now, there is a 3-4 month waiting period to process new applications.

At this time, there is also a limit on the number of people, on various visas, they are allowing to re-enter Thailand each day. But if you have the cash, it’s definitely an option as people on the Thailand Elite Visa are currently allowed to re-enter the Kingdom.

Our flight has a transit stop in Thailand. Can we get off the plane and spend a day in Bangkok?

No. At this time all transits require passengers to remain on the plane. There may be some situations where they deplane passengers but you will be restricted to a section of the airport.

Can I get a job, get a new visa and stay in Thailand?

Maybe, possibly. Jobs for foreigners are thin on the ground at the moment. Outside of teaching English (there will always be jobs for English teachers in Thailand), most companies are cutting staff right now, rather than employing. You would need to secure a letter of offer from your new employer and visit you local immigration office to discuss the matter urgently, before September 26.

Can I fly back to my country and get a new Non B visa, and then return to Thailand?

In theory, yes. But it will take some good planning and a dose of luck for the plan to be successful. Theo did it… HERE’s the link to his story. You will certainly need to do a 14 day quarantine upon your return and the capricious nature of various embassy and immigration officials could make the many steps to get all the paperwork a nightmare.

What about other tropical holiday spots?

Island economies, dependent on tourism – from Bali in Indonesia, to Hawaii in the US – grapple with the pandemic, which has brought global travel to a virtual halt. World aviation has dropped by 97% (last month compared year-on-year). Re-opening to tourists has led to the resurgence of infection in some places like the Caribbean island of Aruba, and governments are fearful of striking the wrong balance between public health and economic reality. Even The Maldives, which confidently re-opened for tourism, has had a recent surge of new cases and forcing the government to rethink its plans.

Ibiza and the other popular Spanish party islands, are also devastated by the current Covid situation.

Can I travel to Thailand for medical Tourism?

Yes. Even though Thailand’s borders are still closed to most travel, including tourism, there are some select groups being allowed back into the Kingdom. Medical tourists are one of those groups but, for most countries, ONLY for urgent or emergency medical matters. Foreign medical tourists are now permitted to apply to come to Thailand for medical treatment with strict disease control measures being put in place.

BUT, and there’s always a ‘but’ at the moment, some countries will not permit its citizens to travel outside of their home countries, even for medical emergencies. In all cases, you would need to consult your local Royal Thai Embassy to find out if you are eligible, before you book a flight or sing a contract with a medical provider in Thailand.

Under the CCSA regulations, foreign medical and wellness tourists have to arrive by air to ensure effective disease control, not via land border checkpoints at this stage.

“Those seeking cosmetic surgery and infertility treatments will be allowed to enter the country. Those seeking Covid-19 treatment are barred.”

If you’d like to investigate coming to Thailand at this time, go to MyMediTravel to browse procedures and check out your options.

Spokesperson Dr. Taweesilp Visanuyothin says the visitors must have an appointment letter from a doctor in Thailand and entry certificates issued by Thai embassies across the globe. People wanting to visit Thailand for medical procedures at this time will need to contact the Thai Embassy in their country to organise the visa and paperwork. Thailand’s major hospitals will provide potential candidates with an appointment letter.

They will also need to produce proof that they tested negative for Covid-19 before their arrival. Once in Thailand they will be tested again and will required to stay at the medical facility for at least 14 days, during which they will be able to start their chosen treatments.

The CCSA says that medical procedures will only be allowed for foreigners at hospitals that have been registered to provide the treatments and have proven their ability to contain any potential outbreak. Potential patients will only be allowed to bring a total of 3 family members or caretakers during their visit to Thailand. Caretakers will have to go through the same screening procedures as the patient.

Embassies and participating hospitals will be able to provide more information about procedures, facilities, paperwork requirements and arrival options.

Again, MAKE SURE you consult the Royal Thai Embassy in your home country before proceeding with any medical tourism pans.

Are there any plans to extend the range of foreigners who can come into Thailand at this stage?

Two more categories are being currently considered for re-entry into Thailand – foreigners with permanent residences who have been stranded overseas for the past 6 months, and long-term foreign residents (retirement visa), will receive priority when the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration announces the date for the next phase of re-opening.

Since Thailand’s experience with Covid-19, it has closed its borders to tourists and visitors, stranding both Thais and foreigners who want to return to the Kingdom. It also stranded up to 500,000 foreign visitors who are unable to leave Thailand due to the border closures or simply decided to wait out the peak of the pandemic here. Many of those have already flown back home on either specially organised repatriation flights or the handful of scheduled flights still leaving Bangkok.

Although restrictions are slowly being lifted, the new measures prioritise professionals, businesspeople and wellness travellers, rather than couples who aren’t legally married, including gay couples, and other types of non-immigrant visas.

People currently allowed back into Thailand include people holding a certificate of permanent residency, a current and valid work permit, those who have special arrangements with, or have been invited by the Thai government, and migrant workers. Holders of a Thailand Elite visa are also permitted under the current situation, although there is a cap on entry numbers under that program.

Travel advice from the UK government

From 4 July, Thailand is exempt from the FCO advice against all non-essential international travel. This is based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks.

However, the requirement to self-isolate on return to the UK from Thailand remains in place. See guidance on entering or returning to the UK.

The following advice within Thailand remains in place. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to areas within the provinces on the Thailand-Malaysia border, including…

  • Pattani
  • Yala
  • Narathiwat
  • Southern Songkhla province. This does not include areas north of and including the A43 road between Hat Yai and Sakom, and areas north-west of and including the train line which runs between Hat Yai and Pedang Besar.

Travel to Thailand is subject to entry restrictions.

  • At present only certain categories of foreign nationals are permitted to enter or transit Thailand.
  • If you’re eligible to enter, you will be subject to a 14-day state quarantine at a Thai government-designated facility at your own expense. If suspected of carrying Covid-19, you may be denied entry into the country
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1 new Covid-19 death, 7 new cases in quarantine

Caitlin Ashworth

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1 new Covid-19 death, 7 new cases in quarantine | The Thaiger
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Thailand reported its first Covid-19 death since June, tallying up the death toll to 59. Health officials also report 7 new Covid-19 cases detected in quarantine. They say 1 person had the virus before. The 54 year old Mhad Mamin worked as a Thai translator at an embassy in Saudi Arabia. He came back to Thailand last month and tested positive for Covid-19. He was recovering at first, but then he started to get worse a couple weeks ago. He died today at Bangkok’s Rajavithi Hospital near Victory Monument. His family lives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Health officials also report 7 new Covid-19 cases detected in state quarantine. Those patients arrived to Thailand from Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Qatar and Pakistan. 1 patient got infected with the virus a second time.

  • A 42 year old Bangladeshi man arrived to Thailand on September 2 and tested positive on September 15. Health officials say he was asymptomatic.
  • A 10 year old boy from Pakistan tested positive in during his first test in quarantine and health officials say he was asymptomatic.
  • 3 Thais returning from Saudi Arabia tested positive for Covid-19. They all arrived in Thailand on September 5 and tested positive on September 16. They had a loss of smell and a runny nose. 2 of them were students, ages 9 and 14. The other was a 61 year old man.
  • A 50 year old Thai man arrived on September 5 and tested positive on September 16. Reports say he was on a flight where 8 other people also tested positive.
  • A 41 year old Thai man arrived from Qatar on September 13 and tested positive on September 16.

Health officials are still working to solve mystery Covid-19 transmissions. A Bangkok DJ tested positive earlier this month, breaking Thailand’s 100 day streak without a local transmission. Health officials say the man contracted the G strain of the virus which is more infectious and typically detected in quarantine rather than in local transmissions.

Another apparent local transmission was reported this month. A Uzbek football player for the Buriram United team tested positive for Covid-19 after he was released from quarantine. Health officials speculate that the virus may have a longer incubation in rare cases.

A 2 year old Burmese child also tested positive for Covid-19 about 9 days after leaving Thailand. Health officials are tracing back the family’s steps to check those who might be “at risk.”

Thailand has reported a total of 3,497 Covid-19 cases with 3,328 recoveries. 559 cases were detected in quarantine.

1 new Covid-19 death, 7 new cases in quarantine | News by The Thaiger

Total Covid-19 deaths in Thailand from February 15 to September 12. (Graph by WorldoMeters)

1 new Covid-19 death, 7 new cases in quarantine | News by The Thaiger

Total Covid-19 cases in Thailand from February 15 to September 10. (Graph by WorldoMeters)

SOURCES:Coconuts Bangkok | Nation Thailand | Bangkok Post

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