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Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

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Confusion reigns today over if Covid-19 tests will be required for visa extensions.

While Phuket News spoke with an immigration official who said “no… you don’t need a Covid-19 test to extend your visa or apply for a work permit”, Khaosod English wrote an article headlined “Covid-19 test will be mandatory for all visa extension”.

The Thaiger also contacted a respected visa agent who said Covid-19 tests are now required for applying for both visa extensions and work permits including renewals.

The Thai Immigration Bureau has not made any official announcement regarding mandatory Covid-19 tests. Talk about Covid-19 tests for foreigners was brought up after a rule was published in the Royal Gazette last month, officially adding Covid-19 to a list of dangerous diseases, prohibiting those infected with any of the listed illnesses from entering the country.

Immigration Police Bureau spokesperson Archayon Kraithong told Khaosod English that proof of a negative Covid-19 test will be required for visa extensions, regardless of how long a foreigner has stayed in Thailand. 

Medical exams are currently already required for most work permit applicants (including tests for Syphilis and Elephantiasis).  A visa agent told The Thaiger that Covid-19 tests have been added to the medical examination requirements.

We’ll bring you any further clarification on that issue as it becomes available.

Research shows that online learning causes a 50% drop in mathematical comprehension, and a 30% drop in reading literacy among Thai students. 

Research presented by the government’s Equitable Education Fund indicates that months of home-learning cannot match in-school study and in fact, can cause a deterioration in students’ ability. With schools currently closed in 28 Thai provinces, thousands of children across the country are joining in with online classes.

The EEF says home-schooling, with the use of screens, also has a negative effect on students’ mental health and their social and emotional development. The research, carried out by the Northwest Evaluation Association, echoes a study done by Massachusetts’ Institute of Technology, which demonstrates that learning through technology is no match for face-to-face learning in the classroom.

Home schooling has been shown to contribute to a decline in overall knowledge, as well as affecting access to quality nutrition, age-appropriate learning, and social experiences.

The EEF says online learning will only serve to widen the gap between rural children and those in the cities by about 2 years, potentially leading to economic disparity and fuelling a cycle of poverty for generations.

With the number of Covid-19 infections among migrant workers in Samut Sakhon failing to drop significantly, the PM is instructing officials to make sure companies are not still hiring illegal workers.

Prayut Chan-o-cha spoke to the deputy governor by video conference from Government House yesterday.

The central province of Samut Sakhon is considered the epicentre of Thailand’s current surge of Covid-19 infections, following an outbreak at the provinces coastal fish markets last month.

The resurgence is linked to migrant workers who were smuggled into the Kingdom illegally, bypassing health checks and the mandatory quarantine requirements. The companies are always seeking cheap labour for the competitive seafood market and have long flouted Thailand’s labour laws with hundreds of cases of forced labour and slavery coming out of the sector.

Samut Sakhon’s own governor tested positive for the virus and remains under hospital care, although he’s now off the ventilator.

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 companies surrendering their licences peaked last month, and around 70% of outbound agents have now shut up shop indefinitely. The final nail in their collective coffins has been the latest Covid-19 resurgence, which was detected on December 20 last year in the central province of Samut Sakhon and has now spread to over 60 Thai provinces.

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

Pundits predict that 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. The TTAA 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.

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 only 50 billion baht, and most of that was in the first couple of months of the year.

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 in Thailand.

The local roll out would start with vulnerable groups who are in the 5 coastal provinces under maximum control to contain the coronavirus – Samut Sakhon, Trat, Chon Buri, Chanthaburi and Rayong.

The Food and Drug Administration is 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.

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 also poided to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine. Injections for the general public are projected to start in the second half of 2021.

Thailand has also secured 2 million doses of China’s Sinovac BioTech vaccine. The first batch of 200,000 doses is expected to arrive in February. 800,000 more doses will arrive in March and 1 million doses in April.

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