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Visa-fee waiver for 21 countries as tourism slump sparks panic

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Visa-fee waiver for 21 countries as tourism slump sparks panic | The Thaiger
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by Kat Chanwanpen

Visitors from 21 countries are getting their visa-on-arrival fee waived for 60 days, starting December 1.

Amid declining numbers of visitors, notably from China, a desperate Cabinet yesterday agreed to waive the 2,000 baht visa-on-arrival fee for tourists from 21 countries for 60 days to try and revive one of the main engines of economic growth.

Meanwhile, the government’s economic minister, Deputy PM Somkid Jatusripitak, yesterday made a deal in Shanghai with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba to help promote Thailand as a tourist destination to Chinese people.

Tourists from 20 countries plus Taiwan, whose nationals are already entitled to a visa on arrival, will be able to enjoy the fee waiver. The duration of stay, however, will remain unchanged at 15 days.

Here’s the list of nationalities that will be able to take advantage of the visa-fee waiver…

Andorra, Bulgaria, Bhutan, China, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, India, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Taiwan.

The proposal was made to the Cabinet by the Immigration Bureau to boost falling tourist numbers over the peak New Year holiday season.

Thailand has seen a continuous decrease in the number of tourists, more than 10 per cent over the past three months, said Government spokesman Puttipong Punnakanta.

The number of tourists coming through Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2016 were 2.2 million and in 2017, 3.1 million. But from January to September this year, the number had declined to 1.7 million, an enormous drop in tourist numbers flowing through the country’s largest airport.

It is hoped the visa-fee exemption will attract 30 per cent more tourists and help generate more income for the tourism industry and the entire economy, he said, while declining to estimate the loss in revenue from the visa-fee waiver.

In the past few years, Thailand has been a popular destination among Chinese tourists but due to the July boat tragedy in Phuket, which killed 47 people, the number of tourists from China has dropped significantly.

Observers in the industry said social media in China had been caning Thailand over the past few months, resulting in a decline in Chinese visitors. Comments on the boat tragedy made by Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan in the days following the tragedy, the crackdown on zero-dollar package tours as well as news of an outbreak of dengue in the Kingdom had made Chinese tourists wary, according to an expert on Chinese affairs.

Visa-fee waiver for 21 countries as tourism slump sparks panic | News by The Thaiger

The number of Chinese visitors dropped dramatically from 939,771 in July, when the boat tragedy took place, to 867, 461 in August, down 11.7 per cent, according to the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

Tour operators, hotels and restaurants in Phuket have confirmed that there were still no signs of Chinese tourists returning to the province. Some resorts are saying drop off of Chinese tourists is at least 50%, some cite declines of a much higher number. The lack of big Chinese tourist buses around the island, usually a noticeable part of the traffic flow around the island’s roads, have been noticably absent in the last two months.

In Pattaya, deputy mayor Poramet Ngampichet called a meeting with concerned agencies and stakeholders in the tourism sector to map out measures to boost visitor numbers following a sharp decline in tourists. Chinese are among the top visitors to Pattaya, totalling 2.5 million last year.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid said yesterday that China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba had agreed to help promote Thai tourism. On November 11, or “11/11” – when Chinese people celebrate “Singles Day” – Alibaba will launch a 20 second video on its website to encourage Chinese tourists to travel to Thailand, he said.

The video is expected to reach as many as 800 million Chinese, Somkid said after his meeting in Shanghai yesterday with Alibaba’s executives, including its founder and president, Jack Ma.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand had already been instructed to create the video, Somkid said, adding he himself might be featured in the presentation to convey the message of convenience and safety in travelling to Thailand.

Visa-fee waiver for 21 countries as tourism slump sparks panic | News by The ThaigerVisa-fee waiver for 21 countries as tourism slump sparks panic | News by The Thaiger

Sort the exchange rate. Why is the baht so ridiculously over valued? For way too long! – JM

Waive visa fee is useless. Improve safety, services, efficiency is the key – AG

Do they seriously think 2000 will make or break someone’s decision to travel to another country? – MZS

Phuket and all other tourist places are over priced for the service and safety that it offers – LE

People come to experience Thailand from various countries and most have a great experience. Those who have visited it tell their friends at home how it was – AK

Surely it’s a kickback from a tourist industry that has grown extremely quickly and now puts off a lot of people looking for a nice quality location but only sees pile it high cheap as possible run down hotels and beaches full of Chinese and Russians . There are some stunning hotels in Phuket but they are far and few between and as soon as you walk outside these hotels you are confronted with mayhem and dangerous travelling conditions, the last taxi we used from the airport it became obvious the driver was stoned and we got out and walked the last bit but the company did send the boss to our hotel the next day with a refund . Guess that makes it all ok and never mind the next fate he picked up – GB

SOURCES: The Nation, The Thaiger

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

UPDATE: Coming to Thailand? Check your insurance and ASQ fine print.

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UPDATE: Coming to Thailand? Check your insurance and ASQ fine print. | The Thaiger

A concerned reader sent us this information, based on his experiences in the ASQ when he arrived in Thailand. We publish them with good faith but would urge everyone to check their insurance situation, whether they’re currently in ASQ or might be in the near future, to check your individual circumstances. AXA has also responded to the comment, we provide that information in BOLD.

“Under current Thai ASQ rules, anyone who fails the RT-PCR test in quarantine is sent to hospital, even if they have no symptoms. The ASQ quarantine fee (paid in advance to the hotel) does not cover the hospital costs. So insurance is required.

1. I checked with AXA Thailand, as they offer an insurance policy for US$100,000 to meet the Covid-19 insurance laws. They told me this does NOT cover hospitalisation without symptoms, even after failing the covid-19 tests that are required in quarantine. I believe the odds of anyone who fails the test in quarantine having no symptoms are at least 50% and in this case their insurance will be invalid. The policy is not fit for purpose!

(AXA have responded to this claim… AXA will cover for the hospital expense necessarily incurred if an insured person is tested positive for COVID-19 regardless of the showing of symptoms. The claim payment is subject to the insured person satisfying the other terms and conditions of the policy.)

2. Most UK insurers offer travel insurance cover for “Emergency Medical Care”. As being sent to hospital merely for failing a test is not an emergency, then they do not cover being sent to hospital from ASQ.

3. Some UK insurers invalidate all of the medical cover, as any visitor to Thailand is “awaiting tests for an undiagnosed condition”, because they require RT-PCR tests.”

AXA has further provided this information…

• Meet the 100,000 USD health insurance requirement of application for Certificate of Entry (COE) to Thailand

• Cover 3.5 million THB of medical expense including COVID19 and 1 million THB of Personal Accident, choice of period 30,90,180,270 and up to 365 days

• Coverage starts immediately a‑er clearing immigration in Thailand and include the period of 14-day Alternative

• State Quarantine (ASQ) and Alternative Local State Quarantine (ALSQ)

• No waiting period , no deductible

• Provide insurance certificate including COVID-19

Reference: https://www.axa.co.th/en/axa-sawasdee-thailand-travel-insurance

The bottomline on all this is ASK questions, check your insurance coverage and get everything in writing.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

2 Thai Covid-19 vaccines to proceed to human testing

Maya Taylor

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2 Thai Covid-19 vaccines to proceed to human testing | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Flickr

Out of Thailand’s 7 potential Covid-19 vaccines, 2 have successfully completed the animal testing stage and will proceed to human testing. Dr Nakorn Premsri from the National Vaccine Institute says the 2 vaccines are the mRNA vaccine from the Chula Vaccine Research Centre and BioNet-Asia’s DNA vaccine.

The Chula VRC candidate vaccine is expected to begin human trials in April of next year. It will initially be tested on 72 volunteers aged 18 – 55, and 36 volunteers over the age of 55. Initial tests will be to determine the best dosage, with volunteers subsequently divided into groups of 12 for further tests. Subject to the tests proving successful, the vaccine will move to phase 2 of human testing, involving 600 people in 2 age groups, from June 2021.

Nakorn adds that the BioNet DNA vaccine will begin human trials in Australia, with phase 2 human trials taking place in Thailand early next year.

“BioNet has received a grant from the Australian government to conduct Phase 1 human trials in Australia.”

Meanwhile, Dr Kiat Raxrungtham, from the Vaccine Development Research Centre, says that while BioNet has the raw materials needed for vaccine development, the supply may not be sufficient, with larger organisations having already procured most of the resources. He further cautions that the government’s budget for vaccine development – 300 million baht, distributed in 42 million baht installments – may prove insufficient. Kiat says he believes at least 1 billion baht is necessary and that fundraising among the public may have to take place.

He adds that, following successful phase 1 trials, phase 2 will take place in June. Following phase 2, the results will be analysed to determine safety and efficacy, but there will be no phase 3, as the technology for manufacturing the vaccine has already been developed and verified in other countries. If phase 1 and 2 prove successful, he anticipates the vaccine could go into mass production by late 2021.

Kiat adds that, due to the genetic make-up of Thai citizens, their dosage during the trial phases will differ to that given to non-Thai citizens.

Meanwhile, Nakorn from the NVI says the other 5 vaccines are still at the animal testing stage.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand | Thai PBS World

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No vaccine, no entry – the next challenge of Covid-19

The Thaiger

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No vaccine, no entry – the next challenge of Covid-19 | The Thaiger

OPINION

With the announcements this week about several vaccine candidate trials, either being completed or at the end of their Phase 3 testings, and the applications to government bodies for ‘emergency approval’, we now have to face the next question.

What restrictions will be imposed on those people who don’t have the vaccine, or even actively choose not to have the vaccine?

And more locally…

Will Thailand allow people to enter Thailand without first having the Covid-19 vaccine?

Given the Thai Government’s low-risk strategy, well almost zero-risk strategy, and reluctance to take any chances with a second wave of Covid 19, it is highly likely there will be a stipulation that anyone entering Thailand will need a vaccine certificate or stamp in their passports.

Couple this with the Thai population’s continued fear of allowing foreigners back into the country at this time, in poll after poll, and it’s a safe bet there will be a “no vaccine, no entry” restriction imposed.

On a positive note, the Thai government may drop the 14 day quarantine for people that have had the vaccine (but not in the early days).

At this stage we know that most of the vaccine trials have had a 95% efficacy. We also know that the leading BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine needs an original jab plus a booster and has to be transported at extremely low temperature.

To complicate matters, there is not yet sufficient evidence that having had a bout of Covid-19, whether asymptomatic or not, guarantees you immunity. Or, if it does, for how long?

All these factors will mean that some level of quarantine will probably be in force as the Thai government slowly re-opens its borders to a wider groups of vaccinated travellers. This would remain in force until the world has a better knowledge of both the proven efficacy of the vaccine, or vaccines, and the re-infection rates.

So, even if we start getting groups of the world’s populations vaccinated before the end of the year, and that’s still a very big IF, there’s a lot more water to pass under the bridge until a coherent, reliable vaccine strategy can be understood and implemented.

Then there will be a rump of people, either hard core anti-vaxxers, or others who are at least skeptical of a new vaccine, who will want to wait or not want the vaccine at all. Public education, some strong science and a successful roll out of the early vaccines will be a key to winning over a lot of the world’s population.

Somehow governments and health authorities are going to have to wind back much of the disinformation floating around the internet about vaccines that is so factually out of whack with reality, it’s going to be one of the greatest public health challenges of all time, to reassure people about the science of vaccines and vaccination.

All this, in the middle of a pandemic that, for now, is still on the ascendency as far as new cases and deaths are concerned.

But there is little doubt rejoining the world of international travel, even local travel, could become restricted to only those who are vaccinated. The rest will be stuck roaming around their own countries, or states, for… years with a raft of restrictions on their lives. Who knows.

Will shopping centres or public buildings also impose a “no vaccine, no entry” policy? Hotels? Public buildings? Job applications?

On top of the economic stress which has fallen on a lot of the world, with so many governments now facing the headwinds of deep recession, the vaccine ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ will add even more public disquiet.

At this stage nobody is sure how the vaccine will be rolled out in Thailand. The Thai government has already signed up for several of the leading vaccine candidates and will most likely provide the vaccine for free to citizens under its public health system.

What does that mean for foreigners living here? If you are covered, with a work permit, under the country’s public health, are you able to get the vaccine for free too? Will the thousands of foreigners on private health insurance be covered?

Surely the insurers will want its customers to be vaccinated. Sick customers cost them money. So, will insurance renewals be limited to only people who have been vaccinated? Will visas be renewed only if you have been vaccinated?

At this stage there are no firm answers to any of these questions.

And then there is the SARS Cov2 virus (Covid-19) itself, a living virus which has the ability to mutate and adapt. Will these new vaccines be effective against all mutations? Again, this is all ahead of us.

We’re certainly now entering a new phase of this pandemic. New challenges, new questions. The rising numbers of cases throughout 2020 is only the first chapter of a book that will be many more years in the making.

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