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Thailand News Today | Test & Go closed Indefinitely & Sandbox destinations added

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In today’s news, the government has finally announced the office deadline for arriving under the Test & Go program. Meanwhile, more destinations are added to the Sandbox scheme. That’s all coming up in today’s program.You’re watching Thailand News Today, bringing you the latest headlines in Thailand and beyond.

Let’s start with the bad news first,

Registration for Thailand’s Test & Go quarantine exemption scheme will be closed indefinitely. And travellers, who are already approved to enter Thailand under the Test & Go program, have until January 15 to arrive.

At its general meeting today, the CCSA decided to continue with the suspension of the entry scheme until further notice. Those who have received a Thailand Pass QR code will be allowed to enter Thailand under the Test & Go program over the next few days, and the last group of approved Test & Go travellers will arrive on January 15.

Those travellers will need to undergo two PCR tests, one on arrival and another by their seventh day in Thailand.

Now for a bit of good news. The sandbox scheme has been extended to 5 more destinations.

Starting January 11, travellers can register to enter Thailand through the Sandbox schemes in Krabi, Phang Nga, or the Surat Thani islands of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao.

Registration to enter Thailand under the Sandbox programme, with the exception of the Phuket Sandbox, was suspended last month. But following a push from the tourism sector, the CCSA approved more destinations to welcome travellers under the Sandbox programme.

The Sandbox programme is open to fully vaccinated travellers. A PCR test is required upon arrival in Thailand and travellers must book a stay at an SHA approved hotel or resort.

—————-

Phuket says it will soon introduce Phuket Sandbox Version 2, which aims to sort out a number of issues with the current scheme.

Deputy Governor พิเชษฐ์ ปาณะพงศ์, says there are currently 4 main problems with the rules of the sandbox scheme, which was launched in July last year to attract foreign tourists back to the island.

The first of those is how long it’s taking to approve Thailand Pass applications. Pichate would like to see a one-stop service that operates 24 hours, with a dedicated call centre to answer questions from foreign tourists. Not to be deterred, he has submitted the suggestion to the Interior Ministry and asked that they discuss it with the CCSA.

The second issue is that the requirement for a second, follow-up PCR test for sandbox tourists, means there are not enough facilities to cope with the demand. However, since January 4, Phuket has launched another 5 mobile lab vehicles and officials expected to handle up to 1,200 people a day.

The third issue, according to Pichate, is that there aren’t enough hotel isolation facilities or so-called “hospitels” – to meet demand. He says the Phuket Public Health Administration will work with Vachira Hospital and the southern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association to set up more facilities for foreigners who test positive but are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms.

Finally, the fourth issue is with the insurance policies travellers take out prior to arriving. As many do not cover patients who only have mild – or no – symptoms, Pichate proposes that the government require foreign arrivals to also take out local insurance. Uh oh another added expense for tourists.

——-

The Federation of Thai Industries says it believes the government can slow the rate of Covid-19 infection, despite the alert level being raised from 3 to 4 yesterday.

เกรียงไกร เธียรนุกุล from the FTI says the government now has 2 years’ experience in handling the pandemic and he thinks they’re better equipped for the current wave.

He says the FTI is not seriously concerned about the infections as long as they remain under 30,000 cases a day, which is viewed as a manageable rate by the government. He also agrees that only partial lockdowns should be considered, targeting high-risk venues and zoning off areas with high-infection rates

Meanwhile, the FTI will wait to see the impact of the government’s work-from-home measures, which will determine the impact of Omicron.

The rapid spread of the variant is currently being blamed on the recent end-of-year celebrations until people find something else to blame.
——-

As the pandemic drags on, it’s not just our patience that is weakening. The Thai baht is falling too, weakening against a stronger US dollar.

Today the conversion rate stands at 33.59 baht to the US dollar just off of its peak in December of 33.7.

The Thai baht had been slowly gaining ground on the US dollar, as 5 years ago the conversion rate was above 35 baht to the dollar. At around this time last year the rate had peaked as low as just under 30 baht.

As Thailand piles on restrictions and continues to delay any relaxation of rules, investors – and especially foreign investors – are watching the markets like hawks for signs of weakness.

After raising the Covid-19 alert level from 3 to 4 yesterday, predictions of financial losses and economic downturns could prompt foreign investors to pull out of the Thai market, at least in the short term.

The market strategist said that so far foreign investors have yet to sell out in any major numbers but the market is in a risk-off state, so foreigners may look to sell Thai stocks or reduce assets in the country in the coming days.

Two French travellers are wanted by Phuket authorities for leaving their hotel quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19.

Thai media used a word meaning “escape” and posted mugshots of the man and woman like suspects on a wanted criminal poster.

Authorities have asked those who have seen the travellers, who are both around 35 years old, to contact the Patong Police Station.

A report in the Thai media outlet Khaosod does not go into detail about which scheme the travellers entered Thailand under. Those who enter under the Test & Go scheme are required to spend at least a night in an approved hotel to isolate while they wait for their results from an PCR test, which can take about a day.

There have been other reports of travellers leaving their hotel before the results come back. Recently, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told the media that health officials plan to impose tough screening measures to let only “quality travellers” visit the country as there were some breaking quarantine and submitting fake insurance documents.

—–

A court in Chiang Mai has fined a senior judge 14,500 baht and suspended his driving licence for 6 months after he caused a collision while drink-driving.

Video footage posted on social media on December 31 shows a car driving into a rescue operation car at an intersection in the Muang district of Chiang Mai.

The Bangkok Post reports that the deputy chief justice of Region 5, has been charged with reckless driving, refusing to submit to a breathalyser test, and failing to stop to help a damaged party.

The Chiang Mai Subdistrict Court judged the judge guilty of violating the Land Traffic Act and originally fined 29,500 baht for the drink-driving offence. However, the fine was reduced by half as a result of his confession and the fact that he paid financial compensation to the other party.

In regional news….Amid a surge in Covid infections in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte is coming down hard on the unvaccinated.

The government recently tightened restrictions in Manila and several provinces, including banning unvaccinated people from leaving home unless for exercise or to purchase essentials. According to an AFP report, Duterte has gone as far as to sanction the arrest of anyone who violates the stay-at-home order.

He cites the classic playbook reason of national emergency to restrain his unvaccinated citizens.

Moreover, restaurants, beauty salons, parks, and churches have all been ordered to operate with reduced capacity, while in-person learning and contact sports have been suspended.

The tougher restrictions are being brought in as case numbers have tripled in the last 2 days. Health officials have said they expect to see infections continue to rise in the coming days, before peaking around the end of January.

To date, nearly 2.9 million people in the Philippines have contracted the virus and nearly 52,000 have died.

The Philippines has a population of over 100 million, and according to AFP, less than half the population have opted for inoculation, a fact that has left Duterte “appalled”.

A very inspiring word to say to half of your country.

————

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

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