News Thailand welcomes holidaymakers as Australians eye more freedoms
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Thailand welcomes holidaymakers as Australians eye more freedoms

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A major overseas holiday destination is getting ready to welcome international visitors – in what could serve as yet another incentive for people with an itching travel bug to get vaccinated.

A Thai holiday might be hard to imagine for Australians who are banned from going overseas, especially the millions of Victorians who at this point are still stuck at home.

But as national vaccination coverage ticks beyond 62.4 per cent for people aged 16 and above, we’re getting closer to taking off for a holiday or to be reunited with family and friends abroad.

Could we get tickets to Thailand by the New Year?

It hasn’t been ruled out. The country announced on Tuesday morning it planned to no longer require vaccinated visitors to quarantine – a move that will make it more affordable to get to one of the nation’s holiday islands.

So far, it has named 10 countries on the quarantine-free list.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the first group would include arrivals from the United Kingdom, Singapore, Germany, China and the United States starting next month.

The list would be expanded on December 1.

More countries would be named by January 1, the PM said.

Thailand’s economy has been badly hurt by the losses suffered by its huge tourism industry, including the loss of the 800,000 Australian visitors it would usually welcome each year.

The possibility of a “travel bubble” bilateral agreement with Australia was raised in late 2020 when the Thai Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said his government was looking at ways to entice “luxury” travellers.

Thailand has allowed foreigners in this year but visitors have faced onerous and expensive quarantine requirements.

Even now, Bangkok and other areas have a 10pm to 4am curfew and other restrictions to try to tame a virulent third wave of the coronavirus that began in April this year.

“The time has come for us to ready ourselves to face the coronavirus and live with it as with other endemic infections and diseases, much as we have learnt to live with other diseases with treatments and vaccinations,” Mr Prayuth said.

All visitors will still need to show negative COVID test results before embarking for Thailand and will require another test on arrival, after which they will be free to travel around Thailand.

That’s one tasty carrot for the 18 per cent of Australian adults yet to get their first dose.

There are plenty of incentives at home, too.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath hinted state borders with NSW, Victoria and the ACT could reopen five to six weeks if 80 per cent double-dose coverage is achieved.

Victoria and NSW are also planning to announce more freedoms for daily life.

Here’s a wrap of the latest lockdown news.

NSW

Rain didn’t put a dampener on NSW’s first day of freedom after months of lockdown, with thousands flooding the pubs and flocking to the salon.

But crowds could soon be back in stadiums and nightclubs across the state, with NSW already on the verge of another critical COVID-19 vaccination milestone.

More than 80 per cent of the population will be fully vaccinated as soon as next Monday, the next threshold for easing restrictions.

As of Sunday – when another 496 new locally acquired cases were recorded in NSW as well as eight deaths – 74 per cent of the state’s population had received two doses of a vaccine.

In the meantime, NSW residents made the most of ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday.

Gyms, cafes, restaurants, shops and hairdressers opened again, and people were allowed to travel more than five kilometres from home.

Families and friends also reunited inside homes.

While authorities, business owners and hospitality staff were nervous about potential conflict with unvaccinated people denied entry and in-venue service, most in NSW were on their best behaviour.

Premier Dominic Perrottet has called for patience and goodwill to continue, as businesses readjust and get used to checking their customers’ vaccination status.

“There’s no doubt there will be teething issues… but if we look out for each other, if we respect each other, we’ll be able to make sure that NSW gets through this period of time and comes stronger out the other side,” Mr Perrottet said.

Unlike his predecessor Gladys Berejiklian, Mr Perrottet said he had no concerns labelling Monday a “Freedom Day” for the state but reiterated that existing restrictions must still be followed.

Despite those limitations – including mask wearing, social distancing and strict density limits and venue caps – Small Business Minister Damien Tudehope said the mood in NSW was one of elation.

Victoria

Victoria is well on its way to being “one of the most vaccinated jurisdictions”, according to the state’s health minister Martin Foley.

Now older Victorians who have held back on getting the AstraZeneca jab can now access Pfizer and Moderna as the state races to re-open.

Mr Foley said there was now enough vaccine supply in Victoria to open all brands to every age group eligible for inoculation.

“This change, which is now in effect, has been made possible by the relative certainty we now have for both Moderna and Pfizer, and the extraordinary number of young people who have come forward over the past three and a half weeks,” he told reporters on Monday.

Previously people over 60 were only able to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine at state hubs.

As of Sunday, 85.8 per cent of Victorians over 16 had received their first vaccine, including 92.9 per cent of people over 50.

On Monday, the state recorded another 1612 cases and eight deaths – two women and six men.

More than 30 per cent of the new infections were recorded in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

There are 19,000 active infections across the state, and the death toll from the current outbreak is 93.

The number of people in hospital continues to rise, with 677 patients including 133 in intensive care and 94 of them on a ventilator.

ACT

On Tuesday, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr is expected to reveal further details of how Canberra will emerge out of COVID-19 lockdown, ahead of stay-at-home orders easing later this week.

Canberra’s lockdown will end on October 15, which will see the reopening of cafes, bars, restaurants and gyms, with up to five visitors allowed in the home.

While the ACT’s road map out of lockdown has already been unveiled, Mr Barr said finer detail would be announced on Tuesday ahead of the reopening.

Mr Barr said an announcement was also expected later this week on travel arrangements between ACT and NSW once Canberra ends its lockdown.

“I also hope by probably Wednesday or Thursday to have confirmation from NSW as to how they regard the ACT in terms of their own COVID arrangements,” he said.

Canberrans can still face heavy fines for crossing the border for the next few days for non-essential reasons, following the easing of restrictions in NSW.

Further relaxation of travel restrictions between the two jurisdictions is expected in coming weeks, in line with NSW allowing freedoms to the unvaccinated in December.

“Travel will change this Friday and further at the end of October and then in December when NSW drop their vaccinated versus unvaccinated status,” Mr Barr said.

Further changes are also on the cards for coming weeks in how ACT health authorities will report COVID-19 cases and exposure sites.

The chief minister said changes would be outlined shortly on who would need to quarantine, should they come into contact with the virus.

Mr Barr said as the reopening took place, there would be less emphasis on case numbers and more on vaccine figures.

“The disease is endemic in our community and there will be hundreds of cases, but vaccines prevent serious illnesses,” he said.

“If you are carrying the virus and you are a case then you will still have to quarantine, but there will certainly be changes around casual contact settings.”

The ACT recorded 32 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, 25 of those being linked to known cases.

There are 18 people in hospital with the virus, seven of those being in intensive care and six on a ventilator.

The ACT is the first jurisdiction in the country to record 70 per cent of its residents aged over 12 being fully vaccinated.

There are now 71.1 per cent of over-12s having both doses while 97.8 per cent have had one dose.

Mr Barr said Canberra was on track to become one of the most vaccinated cities in the world.

-with AAP