PM Prayut inspects COVID-19 vaccination venue at CentralWorld

Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha, has inspected a vaccination venue at CentralWorld shopping plaza in Pathum Wan district, Bangkok, while insisting that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe.

Today (May 31), Gen. Prayut visited the vaccination venue, jointly set up by Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) and Chulabhorn Hospital, situated on the eighth floor of CentralWorld. The venue is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and has set an inoculation target of 2,500 to 3,000 people a day.

While testing the vaccination system, vaccine recipients included workers who are employed on the frontline to limit the spread of COVID-19 and people whose professions involve close interaction with many customers. The BMA has cooperated with the TCC and its hospital network in setting up COVID-19 vaccination units outside hospitals. CentralWorld is the 14th such unit. The BMA plans to set up 25 COVID-19 vaccination units outside hospitals across Bangkok.

The Prime Minister had discussions with personnel and people receiving the vaccines. He asked everyone not to get excited as it could affect their blood pressure. He confirmed that he had no side effects after being inoculated recently. The vaccines have been safely administered in many countries, with only some vaccine recipients experiencing numbness for a short time.

The Prime Minister said the government is working to provide channels for all people to have access to COVID-19 vaccines. In addition to people over 60 years old and those with congenital diseases who have signed up with the Mohpromt application, the government is to urgently provide vaccines to providers of public services. The government is working to provide the vaccines to the people. The vaccines will continue to arrive and they will be sufficient for all.

Gen. Prayut insisted that everyone has to follow the public health measures regardless of the situation.


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Reporter : Praphorn Praphornkul

Rewriter : Tarin Angskul

National News Bureau & Public Relations :

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Health authorities to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination drive in Bangkok

Thailand’s Department of Disease Control (DDC) is aiming to prioritize the distribution COVID-19 vaccine in Bangkok, during the national inoculation drive next month, to vaccinate at least 70% of the capital’s residents by July.

DDC Director-General Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong said the distribution of vaccine for other provinces will vary, depending on the spread of infections in each area. Vaccine registration for people living in the provinces will open on June 14th via local hospitals, mobile apps developed for each province and health volunteers.

He said the DDC has adjusted its plan, to allocate vaccines to each province, from a monthly to a weekly basis. Each province must set up its own plan for who should be inoculated first, adding that the department has a quota of five million doses for Bangkok and one million for workers who belong to the Social Security Fund.

Dr. Opas said the department is still committed to having at least 70% of the nation receive their first shot by September, as there will be about 50 million vaccine doses available.


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Reporter : Subhabhong Rarueysong

Rewriter : Tarin Angskul

National News Bureau & Public Relations :

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Villagers around Lak Si camp get COVID-19 jabs

Residents around Lak Si construction camp have been getting COVID-19 jabs since the camp was linked to a large cluster. On Tuesday, City Hall opened an on-site vaccination center for the villagers, which is however closing today.

The vaccination center was opened at Bang Khen School in Lak Si, Bangkok, to urgently inoculate people living in the neighborhood around the Lak Si construction camp.

On its final day of operation today, a 500-meter long queue can be seen as many people arrive to get their jabs. The center can provide the jabs to 10 people in a given time slot, with officials from Lak Si District Office on the ground to provide assistance and prevent crowding among those waiting.

From 25th May until today, the district office arranged for residents of the seven communities surrounding the cluster-linked construction camp to get their COVID-19 vaccine shots, in an attempt to contain the outbreak.

The construction camp is one of the major clusters emerging in Bangkok in recent weeks, with the B.1.617.2 variant of concern first found in India, detected in some of the cases in this cluster.

People getting their shots today said they feel more confident after getting their first dose, as they believe the vaccine will protect them from COVID-19. They have asked other people to join in the vaccination program in order to stop the spread in Thailand.


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Reporter : Tanakorn Sangiam

Rewriter : Tarin Angskul

National News Bureau & Public Relations :

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Return of Empty Shipping Containers Enables Export of Products worth ฿35bn

The Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) has reported that more than 23,000 empty containers have been returned to Thailand since February, enabling the export of 458,000 tons of products worth over 35 billion baht.

TCC vice chairman Phot Aramwattananont said the return of the empty containers has helped alleviate the shortage, which Thai exporters have been facing due to lockdown measures in some countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented cargo ships from returning with empty containers.

In December last year the government ordered the Marine Department to amend docking regulations, allowing cargo ships 300-400 metres long to dock in Thailand for up to two years, to attract vessel operators so they could return empty containers.

Mr. Phot said, since then, seven cargo ships of under 400 metres have docked at Laem Chabang Port in Chonburi, returning over 23,000 empty containers to Thai exporters, enabling the export sector to contribute to the nation’s economic growth during this time of crisis.


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Reporter : Paphamon Arayasukawat

Rewriter : Paphamon Arayasukawat

National News Bureau & Public Relations :

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ViMUT Hospital Provides COVID-19 Vaccinations for Chinese Nationals in Thailand

Bangkok’s ViMUT Hospital, on Pahonyothin Road in Bangkok, is working with the Chinese embassy to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for Chinese nationals living in Thailand.

The hospital said it delivered vaccinations to people working for Huawei Technologies (Thailand) on May 21st and aims to vaccinate at least 20,000 Chinese nationals as part of the inoculation drive. It will also work with other embassies interested in providing vaccinations for their nationals from June 7th onwards.

Meanwhile, the hospital is getting ready to provide the second jab for medical personnel in the Bangkok metropolitan area. Senior citizens and those with chronic conditions, as well as the general public, will receive their first dose according to the schedule defined by the government.

People wishing to have a health check, to assess their readiness for the jab, or related medical advice, can visit the hospital in person. People can also call (02) 079 0000, direct their queries to ViMUT Hospital’s Facebook page or its official Line account.

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Reporter : Subhabhong Rarueysong

Rewriter : Hugh Brammar

National News Bureau & Public Relations :

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Environment Minister plants trees on National Tree Day

Along with Visakha Puja day, today is also Thailand’s National Tree Day. To celebrate the occasion, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (MNRE) has held a tree planting ceremony promoting the national strategy to increase the country’s green areas over 20 years.

The Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Varawut Silpa-archa has led a tree planting ceremony celebrating National Tree Day at Wat Pa Lelai Worawihan in Suphan Buri.

On this occasion, the Environment Minister has invited the general public to sign up to the MNRE’s campaign to plant 100 million trees, in celebration of His Majesty the King’s royal coronation.

Members of the public can participate in the campaign by signing up to it on the Royal Forest Department website. So far, some 44 million people have already signed up.

The Royal Forest Department is distributing seedlings to the general public who wish to plant trees, available at Seedlings Plantation Stations across the country.

The MNRE is moving forward with campaigns to increase the nation’s green zones to cover 55% of the country, in line with the 20-year National Strategy. The MNRE is aiming to plant trees on 64,000 hectares of land (400,000 rai) this year, covering national forest reserves, conservation forests, community forests, mangrove forests, and peat swamp forests.


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Reporter : Tanakorn Sangiam

Rewriter : Tarin Angskul

National News Bureau & Public Relations :

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The normal four-hour flight took as long as 35 plus hours

Lekha Shankar | Bangkok — so near, yet so far

Covid does strange, surreal things. One of the strangest, most surreal things I did recently was take a shockingly long return-flight to Thailand from India.

The normal four-hour flight took as long as 35+ hours (including two huge layovers), and the ticket cost eight times the normal price.


Welcome to travel in Covid times. Or, should I say welcome to travel-bans, in Covid times?

It happened with the recent Covid-surge in India. Thailand suddenly announced a ban on flights from India, at very short notice. I was in Coimbatore, and had to pack up almost immediately, to beat the travel-ban.

But travelling in Covid times is not just about packing up and flying out.

It’s about a whole new system of tests and documents, quite unsurpassed in the travel industry.


Every airline/country has its own set of rules and regulations, and one needs to carefully study them before one thinks of an overseas trip.

The regulations for entering Thailand are different from those observed to enter India.


So, if one is getting a return ticket, make sure you understand the rules of both countries.

The main thing to remember both ways, in Covid times, is that the ticket availability is decided, not by the airline, but by the respective embassy, and it’s they who enumerate the rules and regulations.

While it’s the Indian embassy in Thailand that gives the clearance for passengers travelling to India, it’s the Thai embassy in India that gives the COE (certificate of entry) to the passengers travelling to Thailand.

The passport and visa are basic documents, of course. But the important document, in Covid times, is the Covid test report or RTPCR Test Report, usually from 72 hours before departure (some airlines ask for 48 hours before departure).


Two other mandatory documents needed to enter Thailand, during Covid times, are an insurance policy for $100,000 (which costs about Rs 28,000), and an ASQ hotel (Alternative State Booking) for 14 days (which costs between 40,000 B and 100,000 B, including three meals a day).

I chose Bajaj Alliance for the former (there are others), and Hotel Belair Bangkok for the latter (there are many others, which can be found on the various ASQ websites. This hotel is popular with Indians, because it’s reasonably priced, and is noted for its good Indian food and service.). Both were very quick with their bookings. So was Pegasus Travels (Chennai), who did my Coimbatore-Chennai-Doha-Bangkok air ticket in record time.


However, I must admit that if I managed to get all these documents uploaded in the nick of time, it was because of the help and guidance from the Thai Consul in Chennai, Victor Phuangketkeow. I was also fortunate that he granted my COE in a few hours,which normally takes a few days. Another person who encouraged me to take the epic flight so that I would beat the travel-ban was former Indian Ambassador to Thailand and current foreign secretary Harsh Shringla.


First flight, Coimbatore-Chennai. I nearly missed this, thanks to Coimbatore being a “silent” airport. There were no announcements, I was half-asleep. Till suddenly, I was awakened by a desperate airline staffer who rushed me to the aircraft that was ready to take off. Thank God it was a small airport, and I didn’t have to run very far.


The Chennai layover was 10 hours, and I kept myself awake with filter coffees and masala chais. Fortunately, the airport was not crowded (who on earth would travel, in Covid times?).

I was at the Qatar Airways counter three hours ahead of time, for my next flight to Doha, and it took nearly all that time to clear my documents.

In Covid times, there are no straight lines and queues, at airports. Only clusters of passengers and staff huddling together, to sort out documents.

I had all my documents, except one — my work permit. It was not on the official list, but I did not argue about it. Instead, I convinced the Qatar Airlines staff that I would have it delivered at the airport in Bangkok. There was no way anything could be delivered to Bangkok’s airport, in Covid times, but I simply needed to board this flight, before the travel-ban.


Four-and-a-half hours to Doha. Comfortable flight, good service. But the aircraft was freezing, and I developed a bad cold.

Not a good thing to have in Covid times, especially with a 14-hour layover in Doha’s enormous airport.

I realised I needed to rest, did not think of budget, and checked into Qatar Airways’ much-talked-about Al Mourjan Lounge. At $250 for 12 hours, it was not cheap, but I soon realised why it was rated one of the world’s best lounges. I took a shower, placed my luggage in a locker, tucked into buffet meals, sipped plenty of hot teas and coffee available at every corner, emptied all the tissues available (thanks to my drippy nose), and then rested in their “quiet rooms” — it was just what the doctor ordered for my knocked-out body. But it added to my expenses, of my epic journey, from India to Thailand.


No document-checking at this airport, but direct boarding of flight to my final destination.

A six-hour flight, which was comfortable because there were many empty seats (thanks to Covid), and I stretched out and had a welcome-sleep.

I woke up at 5 am with a huge sense of relief. Amazing Thailand at last. I reached in the nick of time, the day before the travel ban to India.

I was warned of the tough immigration officials at Suvarnabhumi airport. They looked imposing in their PPP outfits, but otherwise were pleasant, quick, efficient. Thorough scrutiny of documents, while the passengers were seated in socially distanced chairs. I was warned about needing several copies of the documents, and had a thick file of them. But the officials used only one set, and circulated those from hand to hand.


The last official seemed impressed with my two vaccination certificates that proved I had taken both doses of the Covid vaccine in India (a rarity in Thailand, where the vaccines are just coming in). But he stated that I would need to go through 14 days of quarantine (earlier, those who had taken both doses of the Covid vaccine needed to do only 7-10 days of quarantine, but now the 14-day quarantine has become mandatory for everyone.)

Future Indian tourists to Thailand might be interested to know that the country hopes to open out for tourism in July, in a phased-out manner. They call it “sandbox tourism”, where individual destinations, starting with the beach-island of Phuket, will be singled out to welcome vaccinated tourists. All the people involved with the tourism industry in Phuket (70 per cent of the population) will also be vaccinated by July.


If this works, the “Sandbox Tourism” method would extend to nine other destinations in the country.

I stepped out into the public area of the airport, where an official in PPP outfit held the placard of my hotel and let me to the hotel-car.

The driver sprayed my luggage with sanitizer, and I was soon on my way to the next phase of my long and expensive Covid journey from India to Thailand — the quarantine period.

Another strange and surreal experience — another story.

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South African Strain of COVID-19 Found in Narathiwat Province

The COVID-19 Network Investigations Group has found the B.1.351 COVID-19 variant, commonly known as the South African strain, in samples which the Public Health Ministry collected from people in an infection cluster in Tak Bai district on May 13th.

The group said the strain contains spike mutations that may impact human immune response to the virus and reduce the effectiveness of vaccines. However, this does not mean that vaccines are ineffective in preventing infections.

Thailand detected the South African variant on Feb 15th in a man who had travelled from Tanzania and who was placed into mandatory quarantine upon arrival.

Dr. Thiravat Hemachudha, head of the Center for Emerging Disease Health Sciences, at the Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University, said finding the South African strain outside quarantine centers implies that the strain is spreading in Thailand.


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Reporter : Paphamon Arayasukawat

Rewriter : Paphamon Arayasukawat

National News Bureau & Public Relations :

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Indian COVID-19 Strain Not Resistant to AstraZeneca Vaccine

The Department of Disease Control (DDC) has explained that the COVID-19 strain, which emerged in India and has been detected among workers at an Italian-Thai Development construction camp in Bangkok’s Lak Si area, is not resistant to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

DDC Director-General Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong said 15 patients infected with the strain include seven males and eight females, with average age of 46. Of these, 12 people were workers at the Lak Si camp, while the other three were their family members.

He said information from Public Health England states that the Indian variant of COVID-19 spreads in the same pattern as the UK strain, but there is no evidence of more severe symptoms or a higher mortality rate.

Dr. Opas added that the Indian strain of the virus responds to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is the one which Thailand aims to use as its primary vaccine.


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Reporter : Paphamon Arayasukawat

Rewriter : Paphamon Arayasukawat

National News Bureau & Public Relations :

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More Repatriation Flights in June for Thai Nationals in India

The Thai embassy in New Delhi has announced that two more repatriation flights are planned in June, for Thai nationals still in India during the COVID-19 crisis. One flight is scheduled to leave from New Delhi and the other from Chennai.

According to the embassy, on the first flight, which is scheduled to leave India on June 8th, at 12.30am and arrive in Thailand at 6.25am, an economy class ticket costs 10,000 baht while a business class ticket costs 19,000 baht.

On the June 30th flight, due to leave India at 2pm and arrive in Thailand at 7pm, the economy class ticket costs 15,000 baht, while the business class ticket costs 21,000 baht per.

The embassy added those interested in the flights are required to pre-register, as they will need to apply for a certificate of entry (COE) first and get a COVID-19 test, to confirm they are free of infection within 72 hours prior to their flight. Upon arriving in Thailand, passengers will still have to undergo the standard COVID-19 quarantine of 14 days before they are allowed to go home.


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Reporter : Paphamon Arayasukawat

Rewriter : Paphamon Arayasukawat

National News Bureau & Public Relations :

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