By Barry Kenyon

Anything and everything about Thailand
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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by Jun »

With current tourist numbers, all they need to do is administer the test in the airport corridors and ask people to wait on the seats for 15 minutes. They already have seats in the corridors, so just need to add more.
The problems would arise when tourist numbers increase.

However, do bear in mind that when Thailand and the rest of the world had delta, testing was not really critical. Now there is an omicron variant, possibly not yet in Thailand, they need to be testing and sequencing. So easing up on testing is badly timed.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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Jun wrote:
Mon Nov 29, 2021 11:17 am
Now there is an omicron variant, possibly not yet in Thailand
If it hasn't reached Thailand yet, how long do you think it will be before it does? I believe it is inevitable - just a question of time, and probably not very much time. No matter what the authorities try to do to prevent it, it'll get to Thailand.

And when it does, watch out! It's anybody's guess how the Thai powers-that-be will respond. I'm expecting the usual knee-jerk overkill reactions.

Not only that, but when sooner or later there is yet another new variant, same thing.

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At the time of this post, so far no Omicron cases have been reported in Thailand.
____________________________________________________

Thailand likely to overturn plan to simplify entry procedures

By Barry Kenyon

November 30, 2021

The sudden appearance of the Omicron virus variant has dashed expectations that Thailand would ease the health tests conducted on arriving passengers from Test and Go countries which include the US, Australia, parts of the Middle East, the UK and most of Europe.

Currently, they are required to book in advance a government-recognized hotel which picks them up at Bangkok airport, arranges for a RT-PCR virus test and quarantines them in their room for 10-24 hours pending the result. Under a proposal endorsed by ministers last week, use of quick antigen tests (rather than PCR) was designed to reduce waiting time to 20 minutes.

However, officials from the health ministry and the top CCSA committee appear to have reversed that policy on the grounds that antigen testing is not as reliable as PCR. They note that entrants to the UK must now – once again – have a PCR test within 48 hours of arrival for precisely that reason.

Chulalongkorn University medic Dr Theera Warathanarat has today strongly urged the government to stick with PCR testing for all entrants. All flights to Thailand from several southern African countries, which first reported Omicron although the origin of the mutant is not known, have been cancelled and the Thailand Pass approval withdrawn for those nationals.

Thai travel agents are advising foreign applicants for the Thailand Pass QR code, essential for admission by land or sea or air, to wait for a formal announcement in the next day or two before booking their compulsory hotel. Israel and Japan have now banned virtually all foreigners from entering, but there is no suggestion that Thailand is considering a universal ban.

The Thailand Pass website is instructing foreigners with flights arriving from December 16 to delay making formal applications until December 1, or Wednesday this week. This suggests a government announcement is likely very soon. All foreign entrants require proof of a negative result of a PCR test conducted less than 72 hours before departure, Covid insurance and evidence of approved hotel registration to qualify for Thailand Pass. Some visas require additional paperwork as listed on various Thai embassy websites round the world.

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Thailand Pass affects post-arrival immigration procedures

By Barry Kenyon

December 9, 2021

Since the introduction last month of Thailand Pass, around 150,000 foreigners have entered the country by air. A sizeable number of them, perhaps a third, have made a beeline for Pattaya and Jomtien. Most appear to be returning residents or family members, but there are also many European snowbird vacationers fleeing the cold weather in northern Europe.

Chonburi Immigration (amongst other offices) is reminding newly-arrived foreigners that they need to register their address by providing passport details and proof of address under the TM30 regulations. There is no need to do this in person if the hotel or condominium has actually recorded personal details online to the immigration bureau. It is not possible to obtain immigration services, such as a visa extension or a certificate of residence to open a bank account or sell/buy a car, without a TM30 form dated after the last arrival from abroad. Short trips within Thailand itself no longer require re-registration.

Thailand Pass has directly affected anyone seeking an extension of a visa obtained from a Thai embassy abroad. In the past, all such visas were stamped into the passport by the embassy in the country of departure. Later, this system was replaced by a vignette or sticker which the applicant placed in his or her passport. But this system has now also been replaced by a new e-visa which is sent to applicants in a detailed email prior to flying to Thailand. This email should be retained after arrival in Thailand. A copy is required by the immigration bureau if and when a foreigner applies for an extension of stay.

Foreigners arriving at local immigration this month say they are confused by the situation at land borders. Although there are active plans to reopen Thailand’s borders with Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos, the purpose is to facilitate the transport of goods and to permit open access for workers and market stall holders in border regions. There has not yet been an announcement that foreign tourists, or Thai-based expats, can pass through border posts as sightseers or visa runners.

Nationally, the immigration bureau has extended the 60 days “Covid extensions” application deadline to late January 2022. This flexibility, which is partly a consequence of land border closures since March 2020, allows foreign tourists whose permissions of stay are running out to remain in Thailand on an ongoing basis. Like all visas, this one is discretionary which means that officers may want to know the reasons for the delay in leaving Thailand, or restrict the initial permission to four weeks pending a notional review. Several thousand “tourists” have not left Thailand for almost two years under the Covid permission arrangements.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

Post by Jun »

Barry Kenyon wrote:
Thu Dec 09, 2021 5:54 am
there are also many European snowbird vacationers fleeing the cold weather in northern Europe.
No surprise there !

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Pattaya heralds a Merry Christmas, well sort of!

By Barry Kenyon

December 15, 2021

Pattaya is making a bold attempt to make a success of the upcoming festive season. Jomtien Immigration, headquarters of Chonburi province, is busier than many customers have witnessed for years. Over two thousand queue tickets have already been issued this week alone. Many of new faces are European tourists, from Scandinavia in particular, reporting their address under the TM30 regulations. However, the queues have been made worse at present by a fingerprint ID check on guest workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

Following a Covid outbreak last month, the Ministry of Health requires limited numbers to be in the building at any one time, leading to exasperatingly long waiting lines and inadequate outside seating capacity. The Tourism Authority of Thailand announced that over 300,000 tourists had entered the country since the beginning of the month. But regular expats must also access immigration offices to report 90 days, extend visas and obtain certificates of residence for various purposes.

Some Pattaya businesses are certainly noticing the pickup in customer numbers. Traffic jams are the new norm on the arterials, although numerous road repairs don’t help. The recent music festivals have filled many hotels at weekends with domestic tourists, whilst the more popular and well-run condos report that units for monthly rent are becoming scarce. Massage parlors are doing better too. Miss Oh, an employee at the Joy Massage on Second Road, summed up, “Last month I never had a customer until the evening, now I’m busy even during the mornings.”

The big bugbear, of course, is alcohol which currently isn’t fully lawful. Then again, it’s not totally illegal either. Current rules are that you can buy it in stores to take home, or enjoy it in a “real” restaurant with the necessary Safety and Health certification and a guarantee that booze is a sideline only. So the inevitable hedging has begun. The once-famous Walking Street now houses one or two eateries or coffee-only bars to test the waters so to speak. Strangely, all of them are on the seaward side which is supposed to be condemned property built illegally 40 years ago.

It’s the same story at Sexy Soi Six in north Pattaya. A few bars are open, allegedly for soft drinks. One, enticingly named Hot Lips, has an ambiguous notice “no cold beer now”. Gay bars are following suit in the Jomtien Complex. Ordered closed by the police on December 7, several are now specializing in non-alcoholic cocktails and exotic coffees. Staff claim that the police stance is now softer as long as you remain obligingly teetotal.

So far, the government has allowed very little official leeway. Restaurants on New Year’s Eve can serve booze until one o’clock the next morning, provided they observe social distancing and encourage antigen health tests. That’s a mere two hours’ extension from now. Christmas Eve and Day don’t sound currently like much fun, although wine with your turkey breast and misletoe pudding will be allowed. Equally, laws are one thing and enforcement is another. If Covid infections remain low, the boys in brown may well look the other way in late December. If not, expect the raids to heat up.

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Thai land borders still closed to most tourists and visa runners

By Barry Kenyon

December 19, 2021

Recent media publicity has highlighted the imminent reopening of some Thai border posts. However, there is no go ahead for most foreigners who wish to see the sights or obtain a new permission to enter Thailand. The imminent openings will initially prioritize border crossings for goods, returning workers and local market stall holders.

The Laos information and culture minister announced yesterday that his country will indeed reopen for tourism in 2022. But the first phase, January to March, will be restricted to organized group tours authorized under the Lao Travel Green Zone Plan. The First Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge, near Vientiane, will formally open in late December, but with those provisos. Meanwhile, the country’s Wattana international airport remains closed to foreigners unless they are “experts, technicians or needed for essential government projects.”

As regards Cambodia, meetings are currently being held between the Sa Kaeo provincial governor and Thai disease control officials to reopen several border posts including Poipet and Aranyprathet. Again, there is no provision for land tourists or visa runners to cross frontiers. However, individual tourists can apply via Cambodian embassies worldwide for tourist visas to enter through the international airports of Phnom Penh and Siam Reap under a scheme similar to Thailand’s Test and Go. However, there is no longer a mandatory insurance requirement for 30 day tourists to Cambodia.

Few tourists are interested in visiting Myanmar right now and all foreigners need “a compelling case” to enter. The coup-installed National Defence and Security Council has called for limited land border openings with both Thailand and China for trade reasons. However, no date has been set. Myanmar’s Yangon international airport remains closed until 31 December 2021, and likely beyond. Most guest workers in Thailand are Myanmar nationals who are free to stay with renewable Thai labour permits.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s land borders with Thailand remain closed and most international visitors are banned, unless they are long-stay residents under the My Second Home retiree scheme or are specifically visiting Langkawi island. All Thailand’s neighbors have stringent health regulations in place with isolation-quarantine regulations stronger than Thailand’s in most cases. Laos even threatens a jail term for non-wearing of a mask in some public places.

Aware of the near-impossibility of leaving Thailand by a land route, the authorities here are allowing 60 days Covid-extensions for international visitors to the end of January 2022, and possibly beyond. Moreover, most Thai longstay visas can currently be obtained or extended without leaving the kingdom. In the past, many applicants for student visas or work permits had to travel over the border to obtain the necessary paperwork in a Thai consulate. For the time being, those journeys are suspended.

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Re: By Barry Kenyon

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As usual, I don't like being a pessimist, but once again my feeling about this situation spells "pessimist".
_________________________________

Brits rush to change flights to Thailand

By Barry Kenyon

December 21, 2021

The “suggestion” by the Thai health ministry that the spread of the Omicron virus is likely to result in urgent travel restrictions has unnerved the international flight market. Britain, which has particularly high Omicron infection levels, feels especially vulnerable. Trailfinders and Flyscanner, amongst other companies, report customers urgently trying to rebook flights before an expected shift in the rules. Few short-term tickets are now available, mostly with stopovers in the Middle East. British Airways and Eva no longer fly direct from UK to Bangkok.

Currently, fully-vaccinated and virus-free citizens of 64 countries, including Britain, can apply for Test and Go clearance to visit Thailand. Once here, they are required to reside in a pre-booked hotel only for several hours awaiting the hopefully-negative result of their new RT-PCR health test. The fear is that Thai authorities will abolish Test and Go for some or all of the 64 countries and replace it with the Sandbox program (which requires new arrivals to sleep for seven nights in a pre-booked hotel with daytime freedom of movement in the area) or a 10 or 14 day compulsory isolation/quarantine irrespective of vaccination status.

A formal decision will likely be taken by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), the top Thai health committee, on Christmas Eve. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is insisting that no decisions have been made and that all stakeholders will be heard. Phisut Sae-Khu, president of the eastern chapter of the Thai Hotels Association, said that sudden changes would have a negative impact, whatever the detail.

Pattaya, whose economy is mostly dependent on tourism, has recently seen international arrival numbers soar, particularly from Scandinavia and the UK. Thanet Supornsahasrungsri, the acting president of the Chonburi Tourism Council said that daily arrivals were now 500-700. Many business owners say that the answer is not more entry restrictions but the enforcement of a digital pass system in every public place. Experience in Thailand suggests this policy is idealistic rather than practical.

The World Health Organization said that the number of Omicron cases is doubling internationally every 2 or 3 days in areas with community transmission, although doubts remain about the severity of illnesses created by the virus variant. Thai travel agents mostly say that the local hospitality industry might just survive the adoption of the Sandbox program, but that the return of isolation-quarantine would be a death knell for 2022.

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Pattaya’s graveyard shift ends as 2022 beckons

By Barry Kenyon

December 27, 2021

Pattaya’s December bonanza has startled even the gloomiest prophets. The heaving immigration bureau is packed out daily as the newly-arrived recruits queue for hours to register their local address or seek extensions. Many restaurants are making more money in an evening than they used to do in a whole month. Bar areas, such as Soi Buakhao, are booming as they take note that the official definition of a “restaurant” has shifted in their favor.

The former Sin City is almost reliving its past. As the Chinese and Indian governments have more or less banned overseas vacations for now, the key markets are European. And these guys know how to spend. Massage parlors, long thought to have died, have unchained their doors: the ones with the biggest choice of masseuses can be busy even in the mornings. The beach chair vendors are selling more sunglasses and suntan oil than for almost two years.

Civic authorities are heavily promoting the countdown to 2022 with promises of firework explosions, concerts at the Bali Hai pier or Mabprachan Lake and endless fun all over the place. Booze will be allowed until one hour past midnight on the year’s final evening, although celebrants at public events – Thai and farang – must be fully vaccinated and carrying their paperwork and masks into the wee hours. More than 200 volunteer cops will supplement the regular boys in brown to ensure there is no backsliding on the health and safety front. We will wait and see on that one.

Once 2022 dawns, the outlook is less rosy. The Test and Go initiative, now suspended for new registrations, is due to be reassessed nationally on January 4. Optimists predict it will be reinstituted on the grounds at that the Omicron virus variant is tamer than its predecessors. Pessimists point out that international travel is already badly dislocated with fears growing that flight arrivals and departures are becoming a painful lottery for weary international travellers.

Meanwhile and largely ignored, Pattaya continues to disappear under the bulldozer’s direction. Huge sections of the city are already down and out, although most developers are still waiting for building permits to erect new condominiums, hotels and family-orientated leisure complexes. Realtors say that more than ten percent of Pattaya’s Beach Road, Second Road and Third Road has disappeared during the pandemic.

Nor is Pattaya nightlife back to normal by any means. Nightclubs, whether go-go parlors or not, remain firmly closed nationally even though their air-conditioned environment is arguably less of a Covid threat than the so-called restaurants currently allowed to operate freely. Currently, there is a half-promise that the government’s key health committee will allow reopening of all entertainment venues in mid-January 2022. In any case, chrome pole dancers are no longer essential to Pattaya’s future. That’s the real legacy of coronavirus.

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Queues expected to dwindle at Pattaya-Jomtien Immigration

By Barry Kenyon

January 6, 2022

The virtual ban on quarantine-free travel to Thailand will crash the numbers of new international arrivals at Bangkok airports and cause a renewed slump in bookings at Pattaya hotels. The short-lived Test and Go scheme, which boosted the numbers arriving from Europe during November and December, ceased taking new online applications from December 22.

Initially, Chonburi Immigration was taken aback by the huge numbers queuing daily at provincial immigration offices, especially the Jomtien headquarters. Deputy inspector Sara said that over 1,000 tickets were issued on some days and the situation was made worse by a week-long closure ordered by the Department of Disease Control following a coronavirus outbreak in early November.

About 40 percent of daily attendees at Jomtien have been expats and long stay foreigners reporting for the 90 days address check-in. In an attempt to reduce overcrowding in the building, the queues for this function were moved outside with additional seating in the covered car park. The provincial health authority restricted the numbers allowed inside the building at any one time to allow for disease control policies to be implemented.

Most of the residual 60 percent have been long-term tourists taking advantage of the government’s “Covid visa policy” which has allowed them to update their passport permission every two months since April 2020. However, national immigration policy requires them to attend twice (30+30 days) for the two months extension which has contributed to the queue lengths in recent months. There is also some evidence that “Covid extenders” have been moving to Pattaya from Bangkok and some other provinces because of the ease of obtaining the extensions in this province.

A source of confusion at Jomtien Immigration has been the requirement for new arrivals from abroad to report their address on the dreaded form TM30 within three days. In theory, hotels should do this on behalf of their customers, but not all do. Those staying with friends, or at condominium units, must usually report personally with proof of ownership of the accommodation where they are sleeping. It is not possible to obtain any immigration service, such as an extension of stay, unless the address has been registered at local Immigration.

However, the outlook for the next few months is far bleaker in the numbers game. With Test and Go about to fizzle and bans on in-house alcohol sales about to be implemented, Pattaya looks set to resume its ghost city mantle, howbeit temporarily. President of the local hoteliers’ association, Phisut Sae-khu, said he expected hotel occupancy to be no more than 30 percent for several months. There have been requests to include Pattaya in any Sandbox initiative or to permit advance bookings under Test and Go. But the reality is that Thailand’s favorite seaside resort won’t be smiling again any time soon.

https://www.pattayamail.com/news/queues ... ion-385470

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