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Thailand News Today | Is the tourist high season over already?

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In today’s news, Thailand’s public Health Ministry gives its proposed cut off date for travellers that were approved for the Thailand pass, although no official decision has been announced yet. And with the suspension of Test & Go are we bidding an early farewell to the high season? All this coming up in today’s program.

You’re watching Thailand News Today, bringing you the latest headlines in Thailand and beyond.

So this is the latest on the cut off date for travellers with approved Thailand passes. Again, this is just the latest words from Thailand’s Health Public Minister Anutin Charnvirakul on the matter. A final decision will be made tomorrow at the CCSA meeting.

Now the Minister is proposing the cutoff date for those travelling under the Test & Go scheme be set to January 15. The government had previously discussed setting January 10 as the last day for approved travellers to enter under the quarantine exemption program, but no date has been confirmed at this time.

The CCSA will discuss the suspension of the Test & Go quarantine exemption scheme at its general meeting tomorrow chaired by PM Prayut Chan-o-cha. Hopefully they’ll also clarify the matter of the cut off date as well.

——————–

Thailand’s high season looks to be over already, with tourism operators reporting a surge in cancellations and plummeting hotel occupancy.

The development follows the government’s decision to suspend the Test & Go entry scheme amid concerns about the Omicron variant, which is rapidly spreading around the world.

Subsequently, tourism operators have been reporting a rise in cancellations as a result of the decision. พงศกร เกตุประภากร from the Tourism Council of Phang Nga says around 60% of the province’s January bookings have been cancelled and that hotel losses have already run to more than 100 million baht as a result. He says it’s vital the sandbox scheme, which is currently limited to Phuket only, be extended to other tourist provinces.

In Krabi, ชรินทิพย์ ตียาภรณ์ from the provincial tourism council says bookings have plummeted as a result of the Test & Go suspension and average occupancy at Krabi hotels now hovers at just 20%. She fears more cancellations will follow if the province is not allowed to resume operating its sandbox scheme.

While occupancy for February and March is currently between 35 and 40%, ชรินทิพย์ says there may be no new bookings in the next 2 months if Test & Go does not resume.

Meanwhile, in the east of the country, พิสุทธิ์ แซ่คู from the Thai Hotels Association says tourists should still be allowed to pre-register under the Test & Go system and obtain their Thailand Pass for a future date, even if they can’t currently enter under the scheme at the moment. He says this would at least allow people to book future trips and arrive when the Covid-19 situation is under control.

—-

The Public Health Ministry has raised the country’s Covid alert level from 3 to 4, with level 5 having the most stringent measures.

The level 4 measures include asking residents to avoid dining or drinking at restaurants, visiting “risky” venues, and travelling, especially on public transportation.

The ministry is encouraging people to work from home and added that some businesses and venues that have a high risk of Covid-19 transmission may need to be closed.

The highest alert level would advise the public to stay at home, to avoid gatherings of more than five people, even family members, and to not travel overseas.

——-

The Thai government says it fears a surge of “tens of thousands” of new Covid infections, and officials are considering a resumption measures like a ban on alcohol in restaurants and limiting large gatherings.

Yesterday, Thailand reported 3,899 new Covid-19 cases, with data showing Omicron infections have tripled compared to last month’s figures.

สุมณี วัชรสิน from the CCSA says the government will make a decision on new restrictions at a meeting tomorrow. Officials are also expected to discuss the suspension of the Test & Go entry scheme which allowed vaccinated travellers from approved countries to enter Thailand with minimal quarantine.

Rumours about more restrictions have many people nervous, particularly those who’ve suffered the most financially. 60 year old กันดารัตน์ ยุทธคม who is 60 years of age and runs a shop in Bangkok, says she only just

——

The governor of Phuket has reassured local businesses that the island remains open for tourists under its sandbox scheme. ณรงค์ วุ่นซิ้ว says that despite a steep rise in case numbers, there are no plans for a lockdown.

He said he has received pleas not to shut down the island as to do so would inevitably affect the province’s economy again.

Over 10,000 foreign visitors arrived on Phuket between Saturday and Monday, up from an average of 500 a day in the early stages of the sandbox. Narong says these numbers have provided some respite for local businesses.

Meanwhile, deputy provincial governor พิเชษฐ์ ปาณะพงศ์ says officials are testing upwards of 5,000 tourists a day for and this is contributing to the sharp rise in infections reported on the island.

 

Phuket reported 227 new infections yesterday, the highest daily number in a month. The governor says most were foreign tourists arriving through the sandbox scheme and the majority had only mild symptoms.

Provincial officials are now working with local hotels to prepare 1,000 beds to serve as “hospitel” isolation facilities.

These will be used for asymptomatic patients, or those with only mild or moderate symptoms, to ease pressure on hospital beds and allow those who are not seriously ill to self-isolate at a hotel.

——

Likewise in Pattaya, officials are planning to open up more hospitels, and are reviewing measures for home isolation for those who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

In Chon Buri today, health officials report nearly 800 cases with more than 4,000 patients currently being treated at local hospitals.

Pattaya used to have more than 1,600 beds available at hospitels, but many hotels stopped offering isolation stays due to a low budget from the National Health Security Office.

In a meeting on Tuesday, Pattaya officials decided to offer around 300 beds for hotel isolation. The beds will be available within a week and patients who are interested in getting treatment will have to pay at 500 baht per night.

For patients with severe cases or those requiring urgent medical attention, Pattaya is preparing 200 hospital beds at Chularat 3 Hospital.

——

A House Secretariat investigation says it found no evidence that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha paid MPs to vote for him.

วิสาร เตชะธีราวัฒน์, a Pheu Thai MP for Chiang Rai, had accused the PM of paying 5 million baht to a number of MPs in return for votes of support. He made the allegation during a no-confidence debate back in September.

The claim prompted House Speaker Chuan Leekpai to order an investigation into the matter. The probe has now ended, with one of Chuan’s advisors saying there is no evidence to back up วิสาร’s allegation.

As part of the process, an investigating committee interviewed Wisarn and a number of others, as well as examining documentation relating to visits to parliament made by the PM and his aides. However, the committee eventually ruled that there was no evidence to back up the allegations.

However, the PM is still coming under pressure from opposition parties, with สมคิด เชื้อคง, also from the Pheu Thai Party and an MP for the north-eastern province of Ubon Ratchathani, saying the opposition will ask for a general debate this month in order to quiz the government on its handling of national affairs.

Opposition MPs will also call for a censhure debate at the next House session. One of the main matters up for discussion is just how long the PM has left in power.

Somkid says his party will ask the Constitutional Court to decide once and for all when the PM’s maximum term of 8 years comes to an end. Opposition parties believe it’ll be all over on August 24, because Prayut came to power in the 2014 military coup, when he was head of the now-defunct National Council for Peace and Order.

Supporters of the PM dispute this, insisting his term didn’t technically begin until June 9, 2019, when it was royally endorsed under the 2017 constitution. If this is found to be the case, the PM would be entitled to remain in power until

wait for it

2027.

—–

While the government frets over the Omicron variant, 333 people have died in road traffic accidents during Thailand’s so-called “7 dangerous days” in the end-of-year holiday.

The official figures, reported by Nation Thailand, were released by the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation. The department says there were over 2,700 road traffic accidents reported between December 29 and January 4, with over 2,670 people injured and 333 killed.

On Tuesday, the last of the 7 days, there were 209 road accidents, resulting in 21 deaths and 202 injuries. On the same day, over 78,000 car and motorbike drivers were charged with violating traffic laws. Of those, 23,000 were not wearing a helmet, while another 20,000 were driving without a licence.

The northern province of Chiang Mai reported the most accidents, at 96, while Bangkok had the highest death toll, at 22 fatalities.

According to the Nation Thailand report, speeding has been identified as the cause of over a third of accidents. Over 82% of accidents involved motorbikes and the majority happened between the hours of 6pm and 7pm.

Despite the shocking statistics, the DDPM says accidents and fatalities over the 7-day period actually were 18% lower than during the same period last year.

Thailand had the dubious honour of recording one of the highest road death tolls in the world in 2016, at 32.7 people out of every 100,000.

Meanwhile, the DDPM says it aims to reduce that to 12 people per 100,000 by 2027.

————

And that’s all for our report. Thailand News Today will be back tomorrow. Meanwhile, you’re now up to date on the Thaiger.

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