The following is our weekly feature in which we take a look at the top developing stories and things to follow over the next week. We are focusing on what is happening for the first week of February 2022, ending February 5th, 2022.
As we publish dozens of stories a week, this allows our readers to get a quick glimpse of the most important stories taking place in Thailand and Pattaya and to monitor and follow for the week ahead, as chosen by our editorial team.
Let’s get right into it with the biggest news of the week and what important stories to follow and look for this week that are likely to see further developments: -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
1. Test and Go Returns after being suspended since mid-December but new rules are unpopular
After being suspended in mid December of last year due to concerns around the Omicron Covid19 variant, Test and Go is finally returning next week to Thailand with some changes. It restarts for registration officially on the morning of February 1st.
The changes, however, are extremely unpopular based on social media comments and feedback.
The program was originally designed to allow foreign international travelers to take an RT-PCR Covid-19 test upon arrival, pass, and then be allowed to go where they wished. There was paperwork and some other requirements but the program had proven very popular when introduced in early November.
The return of the program was highly anticipated…until officials announced that a second RT-PCR test was not only mandatory but also required visitors to check into a qualified SHA+ hotel on day five of their visit and wait for results.
The reasoning for this was because previously the second test, which had been required before in later iterations of Test and Go, did not require one to stay at a hotel and basically quarantine waiting for their results. However, unfortunately, a small number of people when learning they were positive chose to flee rather than check themselves into a hospital or quarantine facility causing the policy change.
Thai officials from the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, or CCSA, have stressed this policy will likely be relaxed in the future and that this won’t be a permanent forever policy. However, it has still driven major anger on social media with many people saying they will not return to Thailand until the rules are further eased.
One of the biggest concerns, especially from foreign travelers, is what happens if one is positive for Covid-19, even if fully vaccinated, boosted, asymptomatic, or even having Covid19 previously. CCSA officials have been working hard to streamline this process and end nightmare stories of tourists being forced to undesirable quarantine centers or hospitals at their expense. Hotel isolation, where a visitor can stay at their previously booked hotel in relative comfort if positive and not seriously ill, is the direction Thailand is moving forward in.
Of course, the danger of testing positive on day five of a two week vacation and spending the remainder of their holiday locked in a hotel room is not one many tourists are willing to risk at this time. Especially as Omicron, already here throughout Thailand, has a much shorter window of infection and symptoms which means one could potentially catch Covid19 on their holiday and then be sent to quarantine. Based on feedback on our own social media channels until this second test is dropped many will still postpone any trips to Thailand.
2. All eyes on oil spill off the coast of Rayong
The next week will see many eyes on an oil spill that started off the coast of Rayong from a pipe leak from a major petroleum company and has now landed on parts of Mae Ramphueng Beach as seen below.
Thailand’s Marine department has already begun legal action against the company allegedly responsible but this is likely to be only the first of many potential actions. Furious business owners and vendors who work on and around the popular Mae Ramphueng Beach, already devastated by Covid19 lockdowns, restrictions, and bans on tourists over the past two years, have expressed their anger over the situation throughout this weekend.
The entire beach has been legally closed by the Rayong Governor while cleanup and management of the situation continues with officials pledging to support all those affected. The beach is normally one of Rayong’s biggest tourist attractions.
We will keep a close eye on this over the next week.
3. Happy Chinese New Year!
On February 1st this week is Chinese New Year, the year of the Tiger.
Normally, this day sees huge festivals, celebrations, parades, acrobatic shows, concerts and more in Pattaya.
However, due to ongoing concern about Covid19 this year (for the second year in a row, in 2020 the event managed to take place just before lockdowns began) the event has been majorly toned down. Only religious and ceremonial events will be allowed locally in Pattaya, according to the Mayor.
Regardless, the event has significant importance for many, including a large Chinese-Thai community in Pattaya and many Chinese expats. We wish all of you a very happy and safe New Year.
That is all for this week have a safe and happy week ahead!