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Thailand mulls new tourism incentives to revive Covid-hit economy



Bangkok, Sep 11: Thailand is mulling on new tourism incentives to revive its Covid-19 pandemic-battered economy, betting on higher vaccination rates that allow quarantine-free travels.

After more than one year of border control and an initiative to bring back foreign visitors to the resort island Phuket from July, Thailand is set to reopen more of its popular tourist destinations to fully-vaccinated foreign visitors starting next month, reports Xinhua news agency.

Regions including the capital city Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan are set to reopen to vaccinated foreign visitors from October 1, while another 21 destinations may reopen from mid-October, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) announced on Friday.

The reopening plans came following the Phuket Sandbox pilot, which allowed fully vaccinated foreign visitors to enter the island without quarantine.

The Phuket program had attracted more than 26,000 tourists during the past two months to the island, generating 1.63 billion baht ($50 million) in revenue, according to TAT.

Local tourism may also get a big push as the government considered measures to encourage domestic travelling starting from mid-October if the number of new Covid-19 cases remains at a manageable level.

According to Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakan, two local tourism campaigns in the pipeline are the “We Travel Together” Phase 3 and “Travel around Thailand”, which would be subject for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)’s approval at the end of this month.

“We are closely monitoring the development trend on the number of new daily infections following the lockdown easing that took effect on September 1. If the new case tally remains at a manageable level, we will continue to pursue our plans,” Phiphat told the local media on Friday.

The Minister said the two campaigns, which had been postponed because of the third wave of the outbreak since early April, will be important for the survival of Thai tourism industry.

Under the “We Travel Together” scheme, travellers will be given a 40 per cent discount on accommodation, a 600-baht voucher for food and beverage for every night booked and another 40 percent discount on plane tickets, according to Phiphat.

It is expected to cover 2 million applicants.

The “Travel around Thailand” project will subsidise 40 per cent of tour packages of up to 5,000 baht for 1 million Thai tourists.

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn expected the campaigns to help unleash pent-up demand.

“Most Thais will prefer to travel within the country for the end of this year as going aboard can still be considered quite a challenge, due to the ongoing global pandemic,” Yuthasak said.

TAT estimated that there would be 90 million domestic trips this year, in line with the number recorded in 2020.

The tourism incentives are part of the Southeast Asian country’s efforts to strike a balance between pandemic containment and economic growth as long as the Covid-19 infections remain at a level that does not overwhelm the public health system.

The revival of tourism sector has been high on the Thai government’s agenda as the sector accounted for about one fifth of the country’s gross domestic product in years before the pandemic.

The government has also been accelerating vaccine roll-out, vowing to inoculating about 70 percent of the whole population by the end of the year.

Till date, more than 16 per cent of the population have been fully vaccinated, according to the CCSA.

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COVID-19 containment may derail if protocol is not followed, says Mansukh Mandaviya



New Delhi: With the festive season approaching fast, COVID-19 containment can derail if they are not celebrated following protocols set by the Government.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has warned people on October 0, 2021 and exhorted 19 states to escalate their inoculation pace so that India can achieve administering 100 crore vaccine doses in the next few days. India has so far administered over 94 crore Covid vaccine doses.

Reviewing the progress of vaccination with principal secretaries and mission directors of the National Health Mission from all major states, the health minister underlined that administering 100 crore doses of COVID vaccine is the immediate milestone.

Mandaviya noted that if festivals, synonymous with auspiciousness, joy and large gatherings, are not observed as per COVID-19 guidelines, containment of COVID-19 can get derailed. “The two-pronged solution is to follow COVID-19 protocols very strictly and to speed up vaccination,” the minister said.

The minister cited results of experiments that pegged the number of first dose recipients not developing severe COVID-19 to be 96 per cent and further pointed out that the number increases to nearly 98 per cent for people who have taken both doses of the vaccine. Officials of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal took part in the meeting.

Observing that over eight crore balance vaccine doses are physically available with states, Mandaviya enquired about specific hurdles, if any, faced by them in increasing their pace of vaccination and vaccine coverage among the target population.

Many states are nearing saturation of coverage in urban areas and are catering to the floating population in the city. Labour and time-intensive door-to-door vaccination is being undertaken in some geographically aloof pockets where first dose coverage is nearing saturation.

Uttar Pradesh state that comparatively limited supply of Covaxin and its shorter span between the doses as a rate inhibiting factor.

“In consultation with the states, the minister exhorted each state to increase their target so that the administration of the last six crore doses for reaching the mark of 100 crore is achieved in the next few days,” the health ministry stated.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan urged all the state health administrators to be strict with observance of COVID-appropriate behaviour during festivities to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak. He underlined the need to adhere to a detailed standard operating procedure issued through a ministry’s letter on September 21. It included no mass-gatherings in containment zones and in districts with over 5 per cent case positivity.

Gatherings with advance permissions and limited people to be allowed in districts with a positivity rate of 5 per cent and below. Relaxations and restrictions to be imposed based on weekly case positivity.

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WHO set to vaccinate 40% population of every nation by yr end



Geneva, Oct 8: The World Health Organization (WHO) announced an initiative to vaccinate 40 per cent of the population of every country against Covid-19 by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by mid-2022, by prioritising vaccine delivery to low-income countries, particularly those in Africa.

“Today, the WHO is launching the Strategy to Achieve Global Covid-19 Vaccination by mid-2022,” Xinhua news agency quoted WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as saying at a press briefing here on Thursday.

“The strategy outlines the road we must all take together to achieve our targets of vaccinating 40 per cent of the population of every country by the end of this year, and 70 percent by the middle of next year.”

According to Tedros, achieving these targets will require at least 11 billion vaccine doses, which is an allocation problem instead of a supply problem.

“With global vaccine production now at nearly 1.5 billion doses per month, there is enough supply to achieve our targets, provided they are distributed equitably,” he said.

According to the WHO’s records, more than 6.4 billion vaccine doses have now been administered globally, and almost one-third of the world’s population is fully vaccinated against the virus.

However, low-income countries have received less than half of one percent of the world’s vaccines.

In Africa, less than 5 per cent of people are fully vaccinated.

Earlier this year, the WHO had set a target for all countries to vaccinate 10 per cent of their populations by the end of September, but 56 countries didn’t make it.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who joined the WHO chief at the initiatve’s launch, said: “Vaccine inequality is the best ally of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“But through dose sharing, swaps, technology transfers and other priority actions, it is possible to reduce deaths and minimize suffering, prevent health systems from being overwhelmed, resume social and economic activities, and reduce the risk of dangerous new variants.”

The UN chief also renewed his appeal to the G20 nations for help, adding that “their meeting later this month will be an opportunity to deliver”.

“I urge all global stakeholders to step up, mobilize their resources and turn this strategy into a reality,” he said.

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Global Covid-19 caseload tops 236.7 mn



Washington, Oct 8: The global coronavirus caseload has topped 236.7 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 4.83 million and vaccinations soared to over 6.39 billion, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

In its latest update on Friday morning, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload, death toll and the total number number of vaccine doses administered stood at 236,730,066, 4,833,592 and 6,394,485,945, respectively.

The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 44,158,348 and 710,173, according to the CSSE.

In terms of infections, India follows in the second place with 33,894,312 cases.

The other worst countries with over 3 million cases are Brazil (21,532,558), the UK (8,084,275), Russia (7,575,825), Turkey (7,357,306), France (7,142,387), Iran (5,674,083), Argentina (5,264,305), Spain (4,971,310), Colombia (4,967,524), Italy (4,692,274), Germany (4,295,876), Indonesia (4,224,487) and Mexico (3,699,621), the CSSE figures showed.

Nations with a death toll of over 100,000 are Brazil (599,810), India (449,856), Mexico (280,610), Russia (209,752), Peru (199,581), Indonesia (142,494), the UK (137,818), Italy (131,198), Colombia (126,517), Iran (122,012), France (117,845) and Argentina (115,416).

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