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What are your Consulates doing to help at this time?

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What are your Consulates doing to help at this time? | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Australia’s Consul-General in Phuket Matthew Barclay
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Australia’s Consul-General in Phuket Matthew Barclay says he understands many people want to know what Australia’s government representatives are doing to help during this time. Matt gives The Thaiger a quick perspective about the services available from your country’s consular representatives during this crazy time.

The services provided by Matt in Phuket are much the same as you can expect from your country’s consular offices here in Thailand. Make yourself aware of how your local embassy, consul-general or honorary consul-general can help you at this time, and what they can, and cannot, do. At least make sure they know where you are and how to contact you if they need to.

Our number one priority is providing advice and support to Australians caught up in the Covid-19 pandemic. Our team of five people is working around the clock to ensure Australians still in Thailand have access to accurate and timely information about current conditions.

But we are part of a much bigger, multi-agency effort working on this matter along with our Embassy in Bangkok and our team back in Canberra (the capital of Australia) also. Together we are working hard to do help all Australians at this difficult time.

While options to depart Thailand are significantly reduced, we want to reassure people that we are doing what we can to ensure their well-being during the period to come.

Here is an insight into what the consulate’s staff are up to at a time like this.

  1. Updating travel advice

When the Royal Thai Government amends its regulations we work quickly to ensure people who wish to travel know what they require and what impact these regulations could possibly have on them while in Thailand. Check smartraveler.gov.au for our latest updates.

  1. Developing clear messaging for Australians still in Thailand

In these times it can be tough to find a reliable source of information. We are regularly seeking out information from airlines, government officials and our colleagues back in Australian and updating travellers through our Australia in Thailand Facebook page. Other than smartraveler, this is our key method for communicating with Australians.

  1. Checking flight schedules and liaising with airlines

Many Australians still want to return home but have faced flight cancellations. We understand flights may shortly cease completely. We are working to ascertain availability and conveying to airlines the demand among Australians still overseas for flights if possible.

  1. Liaising with local government

We have close links with the Royal Thai Government across and are in close contact to ensure that we have credible and timely information for Australians on the current conditions in Thailand. Given social distancing measures, this is increasingly using Line/WhatsApp messages and phones calls to get the best information available.

  1. Developing ways to alleviate visa stress

As travel options have reduced it has become harder for Australians who are long term residents in Thailand to depart and return to meet their visa obligations. We have done some fast work to establish a method of issuing visa support letters to ensure these people have peace of mind during this time. We will now also consider offering a letter to those who have already sought a 30 day extension on their tourist visa. Anyone seeking a letter can email their current visa page and passport biodata page to consular.phuket@dfat.gov.au

  1. Getting the latest information from Bangkok and Canberra

Our response to Covid-19 is our top priority at present. Our staff are in regular contact with our headquarters in Canberra and our colleagues at the Embassy in Bangkok. We are sharing information and resources to ensure we are doing all we can to assist those overseas at this time.

  1. Answering concerns and queries

It is natural that people have questions they want answered right now. As you can imagine, we are receiving dozens of queries a day. We are working to answer everyone’s queries on the situation as fast as possible. This includes over the weekends to ensure that people are getting reliable information quickly. Any questions can be sent to us at consular.phuket@dfat.gov.au

  1. Registering Australians

Numbers of Australians in Thailand fluctuate during the year. We are keen to understand who is still here and who may need support. Australians remaining in Thailand should register their details with the Australian Embassy in Bangkok (Consular.Bangkok@dfat.gov.au) or the Australian Consulate-General in Phuket (Consular.Phuket@dfat.gov.au) for those in Phuket, Krabi, Phang-Nga or Surat Thani.

  1. Preparing Australians for their return home

While flight options may be limited, we still want Australians ready to travel at short notice if flights become available. We ask everyone to make sure they have a valid travel document and to let us know if their passport is lost or about to expire. We are doing all we can to quickly produce passports. For more information check out our website: phuket.consulate.gov.au

  1. Providing regular consular support

As with any time, Australians are still experiencing everyday issues in Thailand. This could include experiencing accidents, being detained, becoming sick or even passing away. Our team is still working to provide high quality support to these people and their families to ensure their wellbeing. In accordance with our Consular Services Charter. For consular support at this time, please call us on 076 317 700

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Hong Kong partially locks down, forcing thousands to undergo Covid screening

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Hong Kong partially locks down, forcing thousands to undergo Covid screening | The Thaiger

Hong Kong’s government is forcing a partial lockdown until 10,000 residents of an area in the Kowloon peninsula, complete a Covid-19 test. The 2 day lockdown in the city’s poorest neighbourhood of Jordan, comes after a new strain of the coronavirus was identified, making it the 1st lockdown that the city has seen.

The area, which features many deteriorating buildings and 150 stacked housing blocks, has confirmed 162 confirmed cases of Covid-19 this month, with the ratio of virus detected in sewage samples from buildings there was higher than that of other areas.

Over the last 2 months the city has been hit by a 4th wave of infections with authorities struggling to bring the daily numbers down. Such clusters have hit the low-income neighbourhoods the most, which are notorious for cramped conditions in districts such as Yau Tsim Mong.

In recent days, health officials began mandatory testing in some 70 buildings in the area but the government has now decided to test everyone much to the confusion of local residents. As rumours of a lockdown were leaked to the local media, the government didn’t officially announce the measure until this morning. The area is also home to many ethnic minorities, mainly South Asian Hong Kongers, a community that often faces discrimination and poverty.

Earlier in the week a senior health official was criticised when he suggested ethnic minority residents might be spreading the virus more readily because “they like to share food, smoke, drink alcohol and chat together.”

The health official’s comments also came as a video was released of predominantly white migrants dancing at a packed brunch on the more affluent Hong Kong Island. But those who agreed with the health official pointed to cramped conditions, not race or culture, as being the cause of the virus spreading more easily.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Phuket wants Bangkok arrivals to skip quarantine to help tourism revenue

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Phuket wants Bangkok arrivals to skip quarantine to help tourism revenue | The Thaiger

Phuket’s tourism representatives are calling for an end to the mandatory quarantine levied at tourists arriving to the province from Bangkok. The tourism delegation have also told Phuket’s provincial government to be prepared to start receiving international tourists starting in October.

According to The Phuket News, such a plan would include a requirement for all international travellers to Thailand to have the Covid-19 vaccine. By that time, it is expected that Phuket will have 70% of its population vaccinated, with the timeline possibly being sped up by the province planning to buy the vaccines with its own funds. Such a move would bypass the national government’s timeline with the hopes of innoculating registered residents quicker. Governor Narong says such quarantine measures in place currently are preventing the province from profitting off domestic tourism.

“Phuket has been hit hard by the 2nd epidemic. Thai tourists do not come because they do not want to quarantine and follow the difficult steps to enter the province, not to mention there are no foreign tourists at this time.”

In a meeting, the PTA President Bhummikitti, said the Covid-19 vaccine was “the last ticket and the last hope” for Phuket tourism, “because Phuket tourism has no way out at this time.”

“Thai people are unable to travel due to the second outbreak, and foreign tourists are not to be mentioned at all. Vaccines are the hope of the Phuket tourism sector.”

“The private sector wants to get clarity from the government whether we can follow this plan or not, because if it is left like this – open, close, lockdown and so on, as in the past – local businesses are all dead.”

Bhummikitti pointed out that the government had promised to work with local industry on all matters related to Covid-19 and keeping the local economy alive. He said that the move would “allow tourism and the Phuket economy to be able to walk once more from having fewer Thai tourists.”

Governor Narong said tracking systems will be in place when tourists do come back to the province.

“In order to ensure tourists that Phuket citizens as well as incoming tourists are safe from the Covid-19 virus, there will be a tracking system, and a fund established to be used as a remedy [sic] to help those affected if there is an infection from incoming tourists.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Eastern provinces growing impatient with safety measures as Covid cases decrease

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Eastern provinces growing impatient with safety measures as Covid cases decrease | The Thaiger

Thailand’s eastern provinces are growing impatient as local businesses and residents await a relaxation in Covid-19 safety measures after seeing a drop in cases. Chonburi, Chanthaburi, Trat and Rayong are under a “highly controlled” status set by the CCSA (Samut Sakhon, south west of Bangkok, also falls into the same category at this time). These provinces, along with Samut Sakhon and Samut Prakarn, are under the strictest control measures in the country.

The cause of such tough measures levied upon the provinces was due to a spike in Covid cases after illegal gambling operations in Rayong and Chonburi were found to feature participants with the Covid-19 virus. But now, those areas are reporting very few cases of the virus leaving residents frustrated as they are unable to make a living or travel.

There has been only 1 case in the past 2 days in all 4 of the Eastern provinces. That case was in Rayong, with all other cases being in the low single digits. On top of the low cases, any new cases have been promptly dealt with by requiring contact-tracing, tracking and quarantine. But any hopes of the measures relaxing has been pushed back to the end of the month, with many questioning such a delay.

Bangkok, which has seen more cases reported than all 4 eastern provinces combined, is now easing restrictions by allowing 13 types of businessesto reopen. The move has baffled the eastern provinces as such businesses are still ordered to shutter. The government has responded, somewhat, by offering a 3,500 baht handout for 2 months, but registration for the handout doesn’t start until the end of this month. When the money actually hits residents’ pockets is also unknown as it could take weeks.

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