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Thailand News Today | Bangkok gears up for an Endemic Phase

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authorities in Bangkok are preparing to shift their Covid strategy to an ‘endemic phase’, as the Thai Public Health Ministry acknowledges a steep drop in infections and deaths.

According to a Nation Thailand report, Kiattiphum Wongrajit from the health ministry says the vaccine rollout, coupled with home isolation programmes and outpatient schemes, has contributed to the significant improvement in the capital’s Covid situation.

Before Songkran, doomsday predictions claimed that daily cases of Covid would exceed 100,000 infections. But back on planet earth, daily numbers actually headed in the opposite direction and have been under 10,000 for 3 days now. Daily deaths are also trending swiftly downward.

Nearly all Bangkok residents have now received 2 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, with around 60% of residents have had at least 1 booster dose. Kiattiphum says this high vaccination rate means the capital is ready to manage Covid as an endemic illness.

Nation Thailand reports that the health ministry is now working with various Bangkok agencies on a gradual easing of Covid-19 restrictions. During the move to endemic, the focus will remain on managing high-risk areas such as pubs, bars, public transport, and public parks, with Kiattiphum expressing hope that the shift to endemic will be smooth.

And here’s the comment many have been waiting for: Dr ป่านฤดี มโนมัยพิบูลย์ from the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration says the mask mandate may soon be lifted in some public spaces and entertainment venues may be allowed to re-open if they follow strict disease prevention measures.

——–

The Thai PM says he expects 20 million tourists to visit the kingdom next year, around half the number of pre-pandemic years.

PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says this prediction still relies on the Covid-19 situation not deteriorating. According to a Bangkok Post report, the PM has acknowledged that tourism numbers have increased significantly since the easing of some restrictions.

However, ‘Significant’ is still well below 10% of the tourism numbers arriving during 2019.

The PM says that although there has been a slight slowdown in economic growth, a rise in exports as a result of a weaker baht, added to the increase in tourist numbers, is reason to be hopeful. The PM also referred to a plan to impose a 300 baht tourism fee but says that the “tourist tax” plan is yet to be implemented and will require more discussion about collection and distribution of the new revenue stream.

According to Prayut, economic growth is looking more promising than it did in the last quarter of 2021. However, Russia’s war in Ukraine, coupled with the lingering pandemic, could still hamper recovery. As a result, the government is lowering its forecast for its 2022 GDP from 4% to 3.5%.
In 2021, the Thai economy expanded by 1.6%, recovering from a 6.2% contraction in 2020.
In addition, the PM says the Government plans to introduce measures to combat high oil prices.

——-

Staying on the Thai Prime Minister, Prayut has dismissed allegations that MPs are being bribed to topple the government in a forthcoming no-confidence debate.

The claims were made on Facebook by former deputy PM, Tritong who says a spider has told him that between 5 and 30 million baht has been offered to MPs from smaller coalition parties, in an attempt to persuade them to topple the current administration.

According to the Bangkok Post, a group of 16 MPs from smaller parties have previously said they will vote in favour of anything that is in the country’s best interests, even if that is in opposition to the government.
Chonlanan, the leader of the main opposition party, Pheu Thai, says his party plans to table a no-confidence motion against the PM and his administration, with a debate likely to take place in late June or early July.

Meanwhile, government ministers have joined the PM in downplaying the allegations of bribery and vote-buying. Public Health Minister and leader of the Bhumjaithai coalition party, Anutin Charnvirakul, has dismissed the claims and says that coalition parties support the government to carry on working smoothly.

——–

Royal Thai Police says it will delete the criminal records of anyone who has been cleared of earlier criminal offences.

Assistant Chief Surachate Hakparn says this will remove the need for people to formally request that their records be deleted.

Currently, even when a case has been closed and a person cleared, investigation records remain on file in the Criminal Records Division. They are only deleted when the individual in question asks for this to be done. According to Surachate, the Royal Thai Police will now adopt a new policy of doing so automatically.

The Bangkok Post reports that many state agencies and private sector firms will conduct background checks on potential employees, including checking for criminal records. If investigation records remain on file, even after a person has been cleared, this could unfairly hinder their chances of being offered employment.

According to information from the Royal Thai Police database on April 28, the investigation records of 12.4 million people remain on file. Of these, the cases against 7.8 million have been concluded, either by prosecutors or by the court system.

The authorities will now begin to sort through the 7.8 million, identifying those whose cases have been dropped or where proceedings were stopped on orders of the prosecution, as well as those whose cases were dismissed by a court or who were found not guilty by a court, with no appeal filed.

———–

Business owners and staff along Pattaya’s much-endeared Walking Street are ready to welcome visitors after waiting for over 2 years.

Pattaya police have paid a visit to the street in a media stunt to declare that the street is now ready, and safe, for visitors to return.
They’ve been setting up checkpoints and urging security guards in ‘bars’ and shops to monitor “inappropriate incidents” and immediately report them to the police.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration cancelled the Test & Go and Sandbox programs and relaxed measures and conditions to enter Thailand, which started on May 1… no Covid-19 tests or quarantine are now required for vaccinated travellers. Unvaccinated or under-vaccinated travellers may also now enter

Thailand but require a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before their travel. Also, the ‘official’ alcohol curfew is now extended to midnight from the former limit of 11 pm.

Thai media reported that different businesses on Pattaya Walking Street are now dusting off the bars and preparing to welcome more tourists after being ordered to close 2 years ago. One business owner told Thai media that she had reorganised her shop, according to the Covid-19 prevention measures – opening as a ‘restaurant’ that can serve alcohol. Tables were now arranged at a ‘safe’ distance, and ATK tests would be offered at the door. She said she was eagerly awaiting the arrival of tourists again and re-starting her business.

Last Sunday, the head of the local tourist police, together with other authorities, visited the popular walking street to invite the media and report that the famous Pattaya street was again ready for visitors.

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