Thailand News Today | Health ministry suggests dry activities for Songkran

The Covid-19 death toll is much higher than what has been officially reported, according to a recent analysis published in The Lancet, a medical journal. The analysis estimates that the global number of fatalities related to the Covid-19 pandemic reached 18.2 million by December 31, 2021, which triples the number of deaths reported at 5.94 million.
The findings were based on excess mortality, which the World Health Organisation says is the difference between the total number of deaths in a crisis compared to those expected under normal conditions. This also accounts for the number of deaths that were indirectly attributed to Covid-19, like the disruption of essential health services due to the pandemic. The analysis in the Lancet notes that more research is needed to help distinguish the proportion of excess mortality that was directly caused by Covid-19 infection.
The analysis states.. “The full impact of the pandemic has been much greater than what is indicated by reported deaths due to Covid-19 alone. Strengthening death registration systems around the world, long understood to be crucial to global public health strategy, is necessary for improved monitoring of this pandemic and future pandemics.”
The number of excess deaths due to Covid-19 was largest in the regions of south Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, and eastern Europe, according to the analysis in the Lancet.
For Thailand, as of the end of 2021, the country reported a total of 21,700 Covid-related deaths. The analysis estimated around 35,200 excess deaths in Thailand from January 2020 to the end of 2021.

Eight bus passengers were killed and more than 20 injured after a double-decker bus crashed into the concrete pillar for the overhead bridge. In a recent drug test, the bus driver tested positive for methamphetamine.
A total of 32 passengers were on the Bangkok – Suwannaphum bus operated by the state-run Transport Company. Five people died immediately at the scene and three later died at the hospital. 22 people, including the driver, were admitted to hospitals to treat their injuries.
The passenger bus was driving on Mittraphap Road in the central province of Saraburi on Saturday. Another driver who witnessed the accident posted a dashcam video of the accident. The bus appeared to be driving at a high speed when it hit the bridge’s supporting pillar, ripping the right side of the bus. Some passengers were ejected from the bus due to the strong impact and were found lying on the road. Others were trapped inside the vehicle.
The bus’s route was from the Suwannaphum district of Isaan province Roi Et and was headed to Bangkok. Saraburi Provincial Transport officers say the bus’s GPS reported the speed at about 80 kilometres per hour.
If the driver was found to be driving recklessly, he could be charged up to 5,000 baht and his licence could be suspended for 30 days to 90 days. If any malfunctions were found on the bus, the Transport Company could be charged up to 50,000 baht as well as 1,100,000 baht in compensation for the passengers.
A 30 year old male passenger told Thai media says he was picked up mid-route in the Isaan province Nakhon Ratchasima and on his way to Bangkok. He got a seat in the back of the bus and was sleeping. He says he woke up when the bus hit a barrier and then saw the bus crash into the bridge’s supporting pillar. He says he was lucky that he just sustained a mild injury.

Thai officials have yet to set regulations on the massive water celebrations for Songkran, the Thai New Year, but the Public Health Ministry is recommending dry activities for the traditional ceremonies. To prevent the spread of Covid-19, the ministry is advising that Thais avoid the traditional act known as “rod nam dam hua,” where water is poured on the hands of relatives, mainly the elderly, as a blessing.
Instead of the water ritual, Thais are being asked to bow, while maintaining a safe social distance. Those travelling home during the holiday, which runs from April 13 to 17, are urged not to partake in the rod nam dam hua ceremony as they could transmit the virus to the elderly, who are at risk of a severe infection.
So far, Songkran celebrations are planned to go ahead this year, but restrictions, like if massive water fights will be allowed and to what extent, will be discussed on Friday at the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration general meeting. PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has reportedly given the green light for interprovincial travel during the holiday.

With Thailand chairing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade bloc this year, the Thai Armed Forces have warned Russia is likely to impose sanctions if the war on Ukraine continues.
“If the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues, economic sanctions on APEC will emerge.”
The trade block is made up of the US, Russia, China, Japan, Australia, Canada, South Korea, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Chile, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, and Vietnam. The Royal Thai Armed Forces Security Centre says Russia has already blacklisted 8 members – the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and New Zealand. According to a Nation Thailand report, the centre points out that Thailand, which hosts APEC forums this year, will come under increased pressure if the US and its allies boycott the forums.
In related news, the centres says it’s compiling information on terrorist organisations or groups that have come into conflict with APEC members, with a focus on the ASEAN region and lone-wolf figures. In addition, officials in Thailand’s 3 southern border provinces are on alert for locals travelling to countries with links to terrorism. The centre says that so far, no APEC member has raised any particular concern ahead of the meetings in October and November this year. However, it adds that Thailand is ramping up security and intelligence, to protect the country’s reputation.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry says it does not expect Russia’s war on Ukraine to disrupt the October meeting of APEC members.

The newly opened Betong Airport, in the southern province of Yala, has inspired hope of a tourism revival in the town. The Bangkok Post reports that the airport received its operating licence from the Aviation Authority of Thailand on January 28. The 920-rai facility can handle up to 300 passengers an hour, or 80,000 a year.
The airport is seen by many as a more viable and safer alternative to traveling by road in the region, much of which involves travel across mountainous terrain. Betong Airport is around 13 kilometres east of the southern border town of Betong. It is owned and operated by the Department of Airports, the 29th airport under DOA management. The passenger terminal covers around 7,000 square metres and the 1,800-metre runway can handle small aircraft such as 80-seat turboprops.
According to the Bangkok Post, Nok Air launches its inaugural flight to Betong today, with plans to operate 3 scheduled flights a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob says the airport could become a regional hub for travel between Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Meanwhile, Narin Ruengwongsak from the Betong Tourism Business Association has high hopes for his sector, saying the airport puts Betong firmly on the tourism map. He says the town has many tourist attractions and has now become more accessible. According to Narin, many tourism operators in nearby provinces have enquired about the airport’s opening and are now planning tour packages to welcome visitors from places like Bangkok and further afield.
Kanpong Limkanchana from the Yala Chamber of Commerce echoes the message of hope for the regional tourism sector. He says the opening of the airport should help double visitor numbers to Betong, which currently welcomes around 2,000 tourists a day.

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