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Thailand News Today | Day 5 PCR test scrapped & Covid insurance reduced!

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The Day 5 PCR test for the Test & Go entry scheme has been scrapped. Instead, on day 5, travellers are required to take a self-administered ATK test without the need to stay at an SHA approved hotel.

The new measures go into effect on March 1. Travellers entering under the Test & Go scheme must still undergo a PCR test on arrival and stay at an approved hotel for their first night while they wait for their results.

The requirement for a second PCR test was initially put into place due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in Thailand. But the additional test, at the traveller’s expense, as well as the mandatory stay at a certified SHA+ hotel while they wait for results, discouraged many potential travellers from planning a trip to Thailand. The CCSA, therefore, approved the revision of the test requirements today. Goes to show that voting with your feet does make an impact.

In addition to the revised requirements, the mandatory Covid insurance for Test & Go travellers has also been reduced to coverage of $US20,000.

Land borders in Nong Kai, Udon Thani, and Songkhla will also reopen to international travel.

——–

Today, Thailand’s CCSA reported new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours have reached 21,232 with 39 Covid-related deaths. Thai media and volunteer groups are also reporting that the availability of beds is “at a crisis point”.

Photos of patients being left to wait for treatment on the street or on temple grounds are also being shared around social media. In spite of this, authorities insist that the situation “is under control”. They claim there are beds and medicine available and enough for the current level of Covid patients.

The volunteer Facebook page ‘Survive Sai Mai’ posted a video of a 60-year-old man waiting for treatment at a temple in Bangkok.

Another volunteer Facebook page ‘Zendai’ also shared photos of a man found lying on the street complaining that he was gasping for air and was tired. He tested positive for Covid-19 and is now receiving treatment.

There’s also another viral story about a mother with a one-year-old daughter waving for help from her balcony because they had become infected but weren’t able to find a hospital or contact anyone to get treatment.

Yesterday, the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, explained to reporters that the photos and claims of the alleged Covid-19 patients left on the streets and other public locations were “not accurate”. He said had checked with his team and did not find any records of the incidents. Moreover, the government also has a home isolation system in place.

Numerous other online stories claim that they were refused testing by hospitals – quote “because it was a weekend”, and some claimed they were unable to contact the 1330 hotline to join the home isolation system.

The National Health Security Office says that the 1330 hotline has received over 20,000 calls per day, and that’s why people were unable to make contact. They say that the solution, in that case, is to contact via the Line app or complete self-registration through an online form instead, but did not comment on residents who were unable to afford a smartphone or internet services.

———-

After 3 separate oil spills from the same company within a month, Rayong officials say the Mae Ram Phueng Beach is still unsafe.

Health officials tested urine samples of officials who had to collect the oil. Out of 534 officials, 3 showed unsafe levels of volatile compounds. 18 other officials still await their results.

The Rayong Pollution Control Centre also said yesterday that the concentration of heavy metals and petroleum hydrocarbons on the beach is still considered unsafe.

The company responsible, Star Petroleum Refining, has vowed to seal leaks in their underwater pipeline. The company started the clean up yesterday after getting approval from the provincial police and marine departments. It said it would finish in 11 days. An engineering team from Japan is also helping clean under the command of the marine department.

48 local fishery groups have petitioned to be compensated for the leaks, since the leaks forced all beach and fishing activities to be suspended.

The Marine and Coastal Services Resources Research Centre said it did not find any oil film in the ocean water from Mae Ram Phueng Beach to the bottom of the Gulf of Thailand. But the director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Services said clusters of tar balls were seen from one pier, to the bottom of the Gulf.

——–

In the wake of last week’s – quote “scooter-gate” crackdown in Patong, electric scooters have now been officially banned from all public roads in Phuket.

Local police stations received an official notice from Major General Sermphan yesterday clarifying how the stand-up form of scooter transportation that is popular among tourists on the island, fits in with existing laws.

He stated that anyone caught riding an electric scooter on a public road could be fined up to 10,000 baht under section 6 of the motor vehicle act for operating an unregistered vehicle on a public road.

No license exists for electric scooters, so offenders could also be charged with unlicensed operation of a vehicle, Sermphan said. That’s because the Department of Land Transport does not recognize the scooters as vehicles, so they cannot be registered and no license is given for their operation.

He added that “Electric scooters may be used in parks, but not on the roads.”

The existing penalty for driving without a license is a fine of up to 9,000 baht and/or up to 6 months in prison. Police officers have been asked to give a warning before issuing a fine or arresting offenders.

The announcement follows last week’s “scooter-gate” crackdown when police in the tourist area of Patong seized four electric scooters and arrested the tourists who were riding them on the street.

A viral video of the event has sparked criticism online among netizens who questioned why the police would arrest the tourists, instead of going straight to the source of scooter rental companies that have been allowed to operate in the city.

After being informed that they would be held responsible in case of an accident, rental operators in Patong agreed to suspend all rentals.

———

Residents and Thai tourists are again complaining to Pattaya authorities saying that they were charged a parking fee at a ‘free’ public carpark at the Bali Hai Pier.

The residents report there was a group of people around the carpark demanding a fee of 300 baht per day from the drivers. Many tourists, both Thais, and foreigners, were not aware that the car park was free.

After a number of official complaints, the Deputy Mayor, Pattana Boonsawat, and municipal police headed to the Bali Hai Pier yesterday.

No individuals or groups collecting parking fees from tourists were around when the officials arrived. Pattana met with Thai media and said that the authorities had received complaints that a number of men were asking tourists to pay the fee and “threatening anyone who refused to pay”.

The Deputy Mayor noted that the carpark was there to offer tourists convenience, so these actions “completely ruined Pattaya’s reputation”. He said Pattaya city would make an announcement to notify both Thais and foreigners that the car park was offered free of charge.

He also said that municipal officers will take a closer watch on the area to prevent any groups or individuals from luring tourists to pay the fee. He insisted the residents and tourists can immediately report via the hotline on 1337, which is open 24/7.

Thai media said that it wasn’t the first time this kind of fee scam had happened. Last year, the same issue was reported at Bali Hai Pier and another public park on the road along Pattaya’s foreshore.

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