The president of the Airlines Association of Thailand says the government must allow the Test & Go entry scheme to resume as soon as possible. The scheme was suspended on December 21 as the Omicron Covid variant was just starting to spread rapidly across the globe. Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth, who is also the boss of Bangkok Airways, says the scheme was working well, attracting more foreign visitors to the kingdom, and airlines are anxious to see it rebooted.Puttipong says the government needs to assess the severity of Omicron and resume Test & Go based on the number of serious infections. Since the scheme’s suspension, international arrivals must choose between mandatory quarantine in Bangkok or one of the country’s sandbox schemes, all in the south. If they opt for one of the sandbox entry schemes, they have to spend a minimum of 7 nights in Phuket, Krabi, Phang Nga or Koh Samui and then test negative for Covid-19 before being free to travel elsewhere in Thailand.Puttipong is urging the government to change its approach to the Omicron variant due to the milder illness in vaccinated people. He points out that airlines already use stringent health protection measures. Domestically, there’s also been a drop off in flights as some passengers decide to play it safe at this time.Meanwhile the boss of Thai Lion Air, says the government’s approach to the Omicron variant – in particular, the decision to suspend Test & Go – has created significant uncertainty for the aviation sector. He adds that TLA has no plans to restart international flights at this time and is calling on the government to provide more support for domestic tourism, by introducing stimulus measures and subsidies that will encourage more people to travel in-country.—-The jury’s out on Thailand’s new 300 baht tourism fee, with foreigners expressing reservations about its introduction. The Thai government has confirmed that all overseas arrivals will have to pay the 300-baht levy from April 1…. Perfect day to launch anything I would have thought. If you check out a lot of the social media, many foreigners are not so fussed about the actual fee, just how it will be spent.Last week a government spokesman previously stated that the fee will be used to develop and upgrade tourist attractions, creating disabled access and adding facilities such as public toilets. He says people flying into the kingdom will have the fee included in their airfare, while those coming by land or sea will have to hand over the dosh at the border. The tourist tax isn’t a first and travellers have been paying a variety of arrival and departure taxes in Thailand for decades.——Thailand’s annual Cobra Gold military exercise, where Thai soldiers train the US and other foreign troops on jungle survival skills, is being scaled down this year due to the current Covid situation.The large, multinational military exercise has been known for its snake decapitating demonstration where soldiers drink the fresh blood from the headless snake before cooking the meat… well, the Thai media love covering that aspect anyway. Last August, after calls to stop the snake demonstration and other gruesome traditions that involved killing animals, PETA announced that not a single animal was killed in the 2021 Cobra Gold exercise.The Royal Thai Armed Forces say Cobra Gold, which is run in coordination with the US military since the 1980s, will be downsized this year to 3,600 troops with 1,700 of them from the US and other participating countries while the other 1,900 will be Thai soldiers. The event will run from February 20 to March 5.—-More than 400 bars, nightclubs, and entertainment venues in Bangkok have applied for permission to reopen as restaurants, sneaking through a loophole whereby restaurants in Blue Zones are able to serve alcohol, at least until 9pm as of today. The venues have been closed since last April due to strict disease control measures. The government delayed its plan to allow bars and nightclubs to reopen in mid-January due to the latest outbreak in Thailand, but decided to allow the venues to apply for permission to reopen as restaurants, as long as they made all the changes required to meet standards for SHA+ approved restaurants at this time.A total of 413 former bars and clubs have applied for permission to reopen as restaurants and some are still being assessed by officials.All staff members will need to be vaccinated and customers who are unvaccinated will have to show a negative ATK test result before entering. The area also has to be airy and spacious enough for social distancing.
Restaurants serving booze after 9pm can face a fine of up to 7,000 baht for their first offence. But, as we’ve seen, the enforcement of these rules has been inconsistent… at best.—-Despite central government recommending schools move to home learning until January 31, schools in Phuket have been told they can re-open, despite the high number of Covid infections on the island. The Ministry of Education had advised Thailand’s schools to suspend in-classroom learning due to the latest surge, but the Phuket governor has issued an order allowing schools on the southern island to re-open.A copy of the order was posted on the Facebook page of the Phuket Information Centre yesterday, stating that schools on the island can resume onsite learning for students of all ages. According to the post, the governor issued the order with the approval of the Phuket Communicable Disease Committee. The latest order from the Phuket governor is in effect until the end of this month.—-The government has advised netizens to be cautious after the Revenue Department’s Twitter account was hacked by unknown cyber attackers. This time the hackers deleted nearly all previous tweets on the account and changed its name to Revenue/NFT. They then posted just one tweet, which read, “I’m looking to collaborate with NFT projects. DM (direct message) me if you’re interested in paid promotion!”It’s not yet known who was behind the attack but NFT stands for non-fungible token in the world of cryptocurrencies. The attack comes as the Thai government confirms new tax measures targeting the crypto market.Following the cyberattack, the Revenue Department advised the public to be wary of any tweets appearing on its account. The department also notified the Anti-Fake News Centre. The account now appears to have been restored and the Revenue Department has instructed the Anti-Fake News Centre to find those behind it. Last week the government’s main news outlet, the NBT, had their Twitter account hacked with a pornagraphic image appearing… to the surprise of many… maybe the delight of a few.—-And Thailand is now using artificial intelligence to spread Buddhist messages. Meet Phra Mana AI, Thailand’s first virtual monk. He looks about 30 years old, but says he understands the “teenage world.” The AI abbot shares easy-to-understand doctrine in an effort to target the new generation.He just had his first interview with Thai media, telling reporters that his Thai creator and developent team were inspired by virtual influencers in different countries. His creation is aimed at making the Buddhist content more accessible and relatable to teenagers.He’s also promising to present feel-good and up-to-date content that relates to the everyday lives of the new generation.Phra Mana AI has accounts on both Instagram and Facebook. One of his posts talks about how the fluctuating cryptocurrency rates relate to life’s ups and downs. Hopefully that will make Thailand’s crypto players feel a little bit better at the moment.
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