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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Foreigners in Thailand worried about their security

Sean Kelly

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Foreigners in Thailand worried about their security | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Abandoned streets of Bangkok - Thai PBS World

Ever had the feeling you’re not wanted at the moment?

As the highly infectious Covid-19 disease spreads through Bangkok’s streets, Thai PBS World reports the city’s expatriate community has multiple reasons to be nervous.

The trouble began in early last month when Thailand’s mercurial Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul blasted “all farang” (a derogatory term for white-westerner), for not wearing face masks, adding offenders “should be kicked out of Thailand”. (He was at a PR event handing out free masks to travellers at the Siam BtS station).

A few days later a Twitter account registered to his name doubled down, criticising “dirty” unmasked Westerners who were “more likely to spread the disease than Asians”.

The account was quickly deleted but the message was loud and xenophobic – and also ran counter to World Health Organisation advice at the time. The global body declared that, to prevent shortages, masks should only be worn by Covid-19 sufferers and medics, and that good hand hygiene was the best defense against the virus. Thai hospitals were indeed complaining of mask shortages at the time.

Expat forums lit up with complaints that farang were being singled out in public for not wearing masks. A western diplomat told Thai PBS World that he was shouted at by an armed sentry for leaving his face uncovered as he strolled passed a Bangkok barracks.

There were also plenty of cases where expats and visitors in Thailand were denied the sale of a face mask, being told the “masks were only for Thai people”.

Yet not all expats were comfortable with the bare-faced look being advocated by the WHO and Western media.

“As a farang, I’m embarrassed that while almost every Thai is responsibly wearing a face mask, many foreigners aren’t,” said Alan Simon, a 61 year old Australian retired software developer living in Bangkok.

“I don’t know if it’s ignorance or complacency, but I fear the toll is going to surge soon. I’m in a high-risk age group so I’m definitely not taking any chances.”

The mask controversy was eventually solved not by Anutin’s ranting, but by hygiene policies implemented by shops and supermarkets, forcing shoppers to cover up their face. It simply became ‘expected’ that everyone would wear a face mask anytime they were in public, and the vast majority of visitors and expats were happy to comply with the public will, and later, direct orders.

But foreigners are now facing more serious problems than just a health minister’s prejudices.

Immigration offices around the country have been packed with expats and tourists desperate to extend their visas or meet the 90 day report requirement to remain ‘legal’.

Popular expat blogger Richard Barrow shared the frustration of many foreigners who were being forced to herd together at a time when Covid-19 was spreading at a rate of more than 100 cases a day. Lines extended down the streets as people queued up at immigration offices around the country, putting themselves and immigration officials at risk because of the slightly-panicked situation and people standing around for hours in close quarters.

“Will this madness ever end? We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the Immigration Bureau are still insisting for stranded tourists and expats to jump through hoops to extend their stay.”

The exasperated rant from Richard in an April 1 post, citing Trat Immigration’s list that required expats to “take the house owner with you for interrogation”.

On the same day, PM Prayut Chan-o-cha vowed action after hearing that hundreds were queuing in long lines outside immigration offices from 5am. The government announced it would approve automatic extensions for tourists until June in order to lower the health risk for both immigration staff and foreigners, though holders of other visas will still have to brave crowds to get extensions.

But nothing clear happened, or was announced at that stage, and expats and tourists are still trying to wade their way through the conflicting reports and the nuances of local offices.

More worrying is local anger brewing amongst Thais, some of who remain convinced, partly fuelled by the comments from the Thai Health Minister, that Thailand’s Covid-19 problem is a ‘farang’ import. And that the dirty farangs are the reason that Thai people are currently holed up in their homes and losing their jobs.

Last night a post was made on a popular Phuket Facebook page calling on upset Thai locals to grab some stones and make a slingshot to fire at foreigners who may have been flouting the local curfews. The same site was posting photos of ‘white’ foreigners around the island, most not wearing masks. They were becoming the target to vent three anger.

“#Get out from my country if you can not stay at home shit tourist.”

Foreigners in Thailand worried about their security | News by The Thaiger

There were 5.7K of likes and 540 comments (as of lunchtime today), and hundreds of supportive comments from disgruntled locals saying they were ready to ‘take up arms’ and take on the dirty foreign tourists flaunt. In amongst some of the more violent comments there were a few voices of reason, not many. The Thaiger has contacted the author for comment. No response has been provided at this stage.

Trying to navigate their way through the maze of conflicting travel advice, new rules, visa changes and, well, just their own safety at this time, has been a really difficult time for foreigners, particularly the ones stranded here and perhaps not as nuanced about living with the locals and Thai culture.

Also foreigners are now having to confront more checkpoints and inspections, along with everyone else at the moment. The language barrier, added to the urgency of the situation, adds additional stress. On this note, we’d strongly advise foreigners heading outdoors to carry their passports and any other documents at the moment.

Still, it’s a difficult time for everyone right now.

Stay safe and stay at home.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

CCSA Update: 71 new Covid-19 cases

The Thaiger

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CCSA Update: 71 new Covid-19 cases | The Thaiger
Deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Natapanu Nopakun / Photo courtesy of the Royal Thai Government

71 new Covid-19 cases were reported today in the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration’s daily briefing. There are currently 579 active cases. Since the start of the pandemic last year, the CCSA has reported a total of 26,441 coronavirus cases in Thailand and 85 deaths.

“The numbers are getting better,” according to deputy spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Natapanu Nopakun, who gives the CCSA report in English. The daily active case count has remained between 500 to 600 cases for the past week, a much lower average than last month when mass testing campaigns were actively rolled out in high risk areas to help trace and contain the virus.

Out of the 71 cases, 41 were detected in hospitals, primarily in Samut Sakhon. 7 cases were detected in active case finding, including 6 in Samut Sakhon and 1 in Pathum Thani. The other 23 cases were detected in quarantine for those travelling to Thailand from overseas.

Recently, 2 beauty pageant contestants tested positive for Covid-19 while in quarantine after arriving in Thailand from overseas. Women from 63 countries travelled to Thailand to participate in a beauty pageant scheduled for later this month. Natapanu praised the health care workers for their effectiveness at detecting the virus at an early stage.

Over the weekend, the CCSA reported 65 new cases yesterday and 64 new cases on Saturday.

CCSA Update: 71 new Covid-19 cases | News by The Thaiger

CCSA Update: 71 new Covid-19 cases | News by The Thaiger

Daily active Covid-19 cases in Thailand as of 7 March 2021, according to Worldometers.

SOURCE: CCSA

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Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai hotels slash prices amid ongoing slump in tourism

Maya Taylor

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Chiang Mai hotels slash prices amid ongoing slump in tourism | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Rati Lanna Riverside Spa Resort

Hotels in the northern province of Chiang Mai have been forced to cut their rates by up to 90%, in a desperate bid to attract more domestic tourists. According to a Bangkok Post report, La-Iad Bungsrithong, from the northern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association, says with tourists mainly favouring the southern beach destinations this month, hotel operators in the north of the country are preparing for the forthcoming low season.

The resurgence of Covid-19 late last year meant that in December, only 1,000 Chiang Mai hotels, offering between 20,000 and 30,000 rooms, stayed open. This month, occupancy rates have plummeted to less than 3% and are not expected to rise beyond 5% during the Songkran holiday next month.

La-Iad says traditional target markets such as China are currently off-limits due to the Chinese government placing restrictions on citizens travelling out of the country.

“Even though vaccine distribution has started globally, the target markets for Chiang Mai such as China still cannot take outbound trips. Operators have to rely on the domestic market for the whole year.”

She adds that the Rati Lanna Riverside Spa Resort, of which she is general manager, has cut room rates to 1,500 baht a night, compared to the normal rate of 13,000 baht prior to the pandemic.

Hotels are also being forced to explore new ways of making money, with around 30 hotels – all 4 and 5 star properties – now offering a “drive-thru” food service. La-Iad says hotel operators are also calling on the Chiang Mai office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand to provide visitors to the province with a 500 baht coupon to be redeemed in hotel eateries. She says the authority also needs to do more to promote inter-provincial travel, in particular from the south and north-east of the country.

In 2019, Chiang Mai welcomed 11 million tourists, with 70% of them being Thai. By contrast, there were only 1 million in 2020. This year’s number is expected to be around 25% of the 2019 figure.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

OPINION – Vaccinating against Covid-19, why wouldn’t you?

The Thaiger

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OPINION – Vaccinating against Covid-19, why wouldn’t you? | The Thaiger

by Andrew J. Wood

The World Health Organisation not only advises that vaccines save millions of lives each year, but they also reduce transmissions. They and their partners are working together on tracking the pandemic, advising on critical interventions and distributing vital medical supplies to those in need, thereby reducing the number of infected people to transmit the virus.

Vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s natural defences — the immune system — to recognise and fight off the viruses they target. After vaccination, if the body is later exposed, the body is immediately ready to destroy them, preventing illness.

WHO states on its website…

“Since February 2021, at least seven different vaccines have been rolled out. Vulnerable populations in all countries are the highest priority for vaccination.

“It is understandable that some people may be concerned about getting vaccinated now that Covid-19 vaccines are available. While more Covid-19 vaccines are being developed as quickly as possible, routine processes and procedures remain in place to ensure the safety of any vaccine that is authorised or approved for use. Safety is a top priority, and there are many reasons to get vaccinated.”

One of the most frequent asked questions is can a Covid-19 vaccine make you sick with Covid-19? The simple answer is no, as none of the Covid-19 vaccines contain the live virus.

According to the USA’s Centre for Disease Control the benefits of getting a Covid-19 jab will help keep you from getting the virus. All Covid-19 vaccines currently available in the United States have been shown to be highly effective at preventing Covid-19.

“Based on what we know about vaccines for other diseases and early data from clinical trials, experts believe that getting a Covid-19 vaccine may also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do get Covid-19 and may also protect people around you, particularly people at increased risk.“

The CDC reminds us that wearing masks and social distancing help reduce the chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines will work with your immune system so it will be ready to fight the virus if exposed.

Australia’s government says vaccination is the most effective way to protect against infectious diseases. Vaccines strengthen your immune system by training it to recognise and fight against specific viruses. They add that when you get vaccinated, you are protecting yourself and helping to protect the whole community by slowing down the spread of the disease. Achieving herd or social immunity is a long-term goal. It usually requires a large amount of the population to be vaccinated.

The CDC notes that people who have already had Covid-19 or tested positive may still benefit from getting the Covid-19 vaccination. There is not enough information currently available to say if or for how long people are protected from getting Covid-19 after they have had it (natural immunity). Early evidence suggests natural immunity from Covid-19 may not last very long, but more studies are needed to better understand this.

In Australia the government say that wearing a mask and physical distance is still important, “It may take time for everyone who wants a Covid-19 vaccination to get one. A vaccine that is 95% effective means that about 1 out of 20 people who get it may not have protection from getting the illness,” they advise online.

Some people never show symptoms so vaccinations are important. There is a common confusion between pre-symptomatic spread (people who spread the virus before showing symptoms) and asymptomatic spread (spreading the virus by someone who never shows any symptoms). The former is one of the hallmarks of the pandemic, the latter much less common. What is important to understand is that everyone agrees vaccines reduce transmission.

So why wouldn’t you take the vaccine that are tested to be safe and federally approved? I read comments like “it’s poison” and “does not work” on social media, but the science and three stage testing, prior to receiving government approval, dispel all that.

An Israeli study found that from 100 vaccinated patients, those who received both doses of the vaccine did not become carriers of the virus and cannot spread it further.

Israel is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world and has compiled comprehensive data.

A new study has also found a reduction in transmission rates even after the first dose. Those who test positive for Covid-19 showed that twelve or more days after taking the first dose have a viral load that’s four times lower than those who have not been vaccinated. Those receiving the vaccine became far less of a Covid transmission risk even before receiving their second dose.

Being less of a risk would allow more freedom to travel with significantly lower transmissions, especially when coupled with mask wearing, social distancing and frequent hand washing.

University Professor Cohen linked to the Israeli study and member of the official Health Ministry Advisory Committee on coronavirus vaccines, says…

“This shows that indeed, besides reducing symptoms and hopefully mortality, the vaccine may facilitate reaching some kind of herd immunity, allowing the partial protection of the weak or non-immunised.”

The question to open borders to vaccinated visitors is now looking more and more likely as the risk to do so is manageable.


ANDREW J WOOD

Andrew J Wood was born in Yorkshire England, he is a professional hotelier, Skalleague and travel writer. Andrew has 48 years of hospitality and travel experience. He is a hotel graduate of Napier University, Edinburgh. Andrew is a past Director of Skål International (SI), National President SI Thailand and is currently President of SI Bangkok and a VP of both SI Thailand and SI Asia. He is a regular guest lecturer at various Universities in Thailand including Assumption University’s Hospitality School and the Japan Hotel School in Tokyo.

The content of this article reflects the writer and does not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of The Thaiger.

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