Eastern Europe cases increase, Thais open their eyes

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As Thailand prepares to open up to vaccinated foreign tourists, coronavirus infections are on the rise in some Eastern European countries.

Poland reported 8,361 daily cases of COVID-19 and 133 deaths on Wednesday, with the number of new infections reaching the highest level since late April.

Bulgaria’s number of infections rose by 6,813 in the last 24 hours, a record daily increase as the European Union’s least vaccinated country grapples with a fourth wave of pandemics.

The Czech Republic reported 6274 new cases, which nearly doubled in a week.

Hungary reported daily cases jumped to 3125, its highest daily count since April, as the government encouraged people to receive widely available vaccines.

Ukraine’s health minister has urged more people to get their COVID-19 vaccines as coronavirus deaths hit a record of 734 daily on Tuesday and hospitalizations rose by more than a fifth from the previous week.

The average vaccination rate of the European Union is around 70 percent, while countries in central and eastern Europe hover around 50 percent or less.

As Thailand rushes to restart an industry battered by an 18-month hiatus in international tourism, it held a dry run Wednesday for its long-awaited, quarantine-free reopening to vaccinated travelers.

At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, Thailand’s main gate, airport staff and health and immigration officials ran a simulation of the arrival of a plane full of visitors to test electronic screening measures.

“The QR codes of all passengers will be checked by the Disease Control Department,” said Kittipong Kittikachorn, the airport’s general manager.

“It will include all the details regarding insurance, vaccination certificate or hotel reservation.”

The impact of the pandemic on tourism in Thailand has been particularly severe, with officials targeting just 100,000 arrivals this year, compared to nearly 40 million in 2019.

Since July, the islands of Phuket and Samui have been reopened with pilot projects.

Thailand, one of the most visited countries in Asia-Pacific, has lost nearly three million tourism-related jobs due to COVID-19.

But the slowdown was driven not entirely by weak demand, but also by Thailand’s tight restrictions, which included 14-day hotel quarantine requirements, COVID-19 testing, and health insurance coverage of up to $100,000 (US$132,875).

From 1 November, vaccinated visitors from eligible countries including the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, France, Australia, China, Japan and Singapore will be allowed to bypass the quarantine provided they test negative for COVID-19.

with AP

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