Thailand has begun the fifth phase of relaxations of COVID-19 restrictions, allowing the reopening of schools and high-risk entertainment venues such as pubs and massage parlours that had been shut since mid-March.
It also is allowing in foreign visitors on a controlled basis, limiting entry to those with existing family or work ties to the country, students, technical experts for businesses, investors and specially invited VIPs.
Scheduled passenger flights to Thailand were suspended in early April.
The number of foreign visitors allowed into the country each day is limited to 200, and they are supposed to travel on repatriation flights bringing Thai citizens home. All returnees, foreign and Thai, will be subject to varying degrees of quarantine.
All confirmed coronavirus cases for the past five weeks have been repatriated Thais rather than cases of local transmission, giving the government confidence to lift restrictions. However, it has extended through July a state of emergency, though critics charge it is used to suppress political dissent.
Reopened establishments still have to maintain social distancing rules. A contact tracing app already used at shopping malls is also mandated for the reopened entertainment venues, including “soapy” massage parlours, which are often illegal fronts for sexual services.
In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region: — The Philippines has retained a strict lockdown in a central city President Rodrigo Duterte described as a new coronavirus hot spot, while the capital and the rest of the country were placed in lighter quarantines.
The moves further stretch three-month lockdowns and quarantines in the country that has counted more than 37,500 people infected, including 1,266 who have died.
Duterte blamed Cebu city, which will remain under a lockdown up to July 15, for many violations of the rules that led to infection spikes. “Cebu is now the hot spot for COVID. Why? Many of you did not follow. So don”t get mad at me,” he said.
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