Thailand has started restrictions in the country, and is planning to reopen its borders to some countries. Photo by Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters/File
Culture Spotlight

Thailand might start accepting foreign travelers from some countries soon

Plus, New Zealand is down to alert level one, Belgium gives its citizens free train tickets, and New York says it has tamed the COVID beast. BY JACS T. SAMPAYAN
ANCX | Jun 14 2020

As the world remains mired in COVID-19 case counts and alarming updates, it’s hard to look past everyone’s grim newsfeeds. But opening our eyes wider to a bigger world that is, albeit slowly, starting to stand up should give us hope—or at least an easier day. ANCX will regularly gather positive developments in different corners of the globe to show that, in trying to move forward, we can confidently train our eyes upward.

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Thailand might start opening its borders to travelers soon 

By next week, Thailand will lift a nationwide curfew and lift more restrictions after it has reported no local transmissions of COVID-19 for 18 days. Strict social distancing rules will still be in place in all public activities, but schools with less than 120 students, music concerts, film productions, sports competitions (without spectators) may resume the following Monday according to its COVID task force. Planning ahead, the country is also looking to reopen to foreign travelers from countries that also managed to contain the virus. These countries may include China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia. “The target group is business travellers as well as those wanting medical services and treatment in Thailand,” says Taweesin Wisanuyothin, a spokesman for the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration. The country has had 3,134 COVID cases so far, 2,987 of which have recovered.

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New Zealand has eased into alert level one

Last Monday, all of New Zealand was lowered to level one of their four-tier COVID alert system. This easing came after the country reported no active cases nor new COVID-19 cases for more than two weeks. The lowering to alert level one came earlier than expected as June 22 was the original target for it. Under the rules of the new alert level, social distancing, while encouraged, is not required anymore. There will be no restrictions placed upon public gatherings, and all schools and workplaces can open. Weddings, funerals and public transport may be held and operated as before. "While the job is not done, there is no denying this is a milestone,” says the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Globally praised for their handling of the pandemic, New Zealand has recorded 1,154 COVID cases and 22 deaths. The Prime Minister promises that the virus will still be closely monitored, and her government will have sustained efforts moving forward. 

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New York COVID hospitalizations and deaths at an all-time low

Saying that they have “tamed the beast,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that their COVID-19 death toll and hospitalizations both dropped to 32 and 1,734, respectively. “New York is an anomaly. We reopened and the numbers are continuing to come down,” Cuomo says. These gains are substantial, given that New York City is one of the biggest, densest cities in the United States. There are almost 400,000 total COVID cases in the state, and more than 200,000 cases in NYC alone. The Governor, however, warns New Yorkers of dropping their guard, as spikes in numbers are recorded in several states across their country. 

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Belgium is giving free train rides to its citizens 

After easing restrictions from its COVID lockdown, Belgium will be giving every resident 10 free train tickets to help jumpstart domestic tourism and boost economic activity. The free tickets will be valid from July to the end of the year, and is applicable to trips within the country. This is part of the Belgian government’s plan to kickstart their economy, which also includes sales tax cuts, higher welfare payments, and restaurant vouchers. Last Monday, the European country started reopening dining spots but with social distancing rules in place. There have been almost 60,000 COVID cases in Belgium, and 9,650 deaths. 

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Alain Ducasse reopens Allard with COVID enhancements 

The chef with the most Michelin stars in the world, Alain Ducasse is reopening one of his restaurants in Paris on June 22, along with other dining spots in France. Ducasse and his team have installed a ventilation system similar to those in hospital ICUs at Allard, whose tables will also have protective separators. The chef says that Allard’s configuration might be a possible solution for tightly-packed bistros, instead of losing half their tables to social distancing rules. He says that he wanted to show it was possible to do things differently, and not just accept the restrictions as they are. "Even if COVID-19 disappears, I will keep this design," Ducasse adds.

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