IATA Calls For European Vaccination Certificate

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for the European Union to support an initiative from Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, to agree a common digital European Covid-19 vaccination certificate that would enable those who are vaccinated to travel freely within Europe without COVID-19 testing.

“Prime Minister Mitsotakis’ initiative should be urgently adopted by the Commission and all member states. Vaccination is a fundamental key to safely reopening borders and stimulating economic recovery. A pan-European mutually recognized vaccination certificate would be an important step towards giving governments the confidence to safely open their borders, and passengers the confidence to fly without the barrier of quarantine.”

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA Director General and CEO

IATA have been working with a number of industry organisations and companies in its efforts to restart international travel and it is hoped that a European initiative would encourage other parts of the world to follow the example as the economic benefits begin to outweigh the danger of the spread of the virus.

IATA have stressed the need for governments to prepare for re-establishing freedom of movement through well coordinated planning combining vaccination and testing, rather than quarantine arrangements and closed borders..

“We are in very dark days of this pandemic. But the tough measures taken combined with accelerating vaccination programs must give us hope that we can safely re-establish the freedom of movement. That will save jobs, ease mental anguish, re-connect families and revive the economy. To do this safely and efficiently, planning is key. Prime Minister Mitsotakis’s proposal for vaccine certificates will be a key enabler. Progress on eliminating or reducing quarantines can be made with testing protocols. But what we need now is for governments to start working together much more effectively. Unilateral government actions were able to quickly dismantle global connectivity. Re-building will need coordination,”

Alexandre de Juniac, IATA Director General and CEO

The EU Heads of State meet on Thursday 21st January and the proposal will be on the agenda. It is hoped they will direct the Commission to take action and develop a common certification.

IATA recently called for the re-opening of borders and the end to quarantine arrangements to help stimulate the world economy and travel and tourism sectors.

IATA have also developed the “Travel Pass” designed to act as a digital “Covid Passport” enabling vaccination and test records to be safely stored and shared. The Travel Pass is currently being piloted by Singapore Airlines. Emirates and Etihad have also recently announced plans to trial the app.

Photo credit Agus Dietrich on Unsplash

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Film Locations in Southeast Asia Part 5

In this, the fifth part in our series of film locations, we

We also have films starring Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage and Sylvester Stallone.

See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 by following the links

The Hangover Part II (2011)

The sequel to the incredibly successful original film that was set in Los Angeles moves the cast to Thailand, mainly Bangkok. The film follows Phil, Stu, Alan, and Doug as they arrive in Thailand for Stu’s wedding.

Much of the film was shot in a studio in North America but exterior shots were shot throughout Bangkok by mainly in Chinatown, including much of the title sequence.

The scene where we see an elephant walking down the street took place on Soi Phiphaksa 1 and The White Lion Bar was actually Boo Sar Bar on Soi Sukhumvit 7/1 Alley.

The Ladyboy bar, Siam Sam’s was actually shot using two bars on Soi Cowboy. The Cactus Bar was used for exterior shots and Tilac Gogo Bar was used for some interior shots, although much of these scenes were shot in the studio.

Possibly the most famous location used in Bangkok was the Sky Bar at the Lubua at the State Tower. The bar is still open and many fans of the film still visit. ust make sure that you are prepared for the high prices and strict dress code in the bar. You can even drink a Hangovertini.

Sky Bar at Lebua at State Tower, Bangkok. Credit Chee Hong on flickr

Song Wat Road is the location for where they steal the monkey and Rama III was the location for the tuk-tuk ride. They then speed down the Chao Phraya River in a speedboat.

We next see the cast for the wedding scenes which took place in Krabi Province.

The wedding venue is actually shot at two luxury resorts in Krabi. Much of the hotel establishing scenes and interiors are at the Phulay Bay, a Ritz Carlton Reserve while the Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort, now the Dusit Thani Krabi Beach Resort was used for lobby scenes.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Shia LaBeouf starred in this Transformers sequel which spent one whole day filming at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Lost in Thailand (2012)

This Chinese comedy film is about 3 Chinese men travelling through Thailand – a tourist exploring the country and 2 scientists searching for their boss.

The film was the highest grossing film of 2012 in China grossing more than US$200 million which made it the highest grossing film of all time when it was released.

Much of the filming took place in Chiang Mai with Wat Chiang Man, Thapae Gate and Wat Buppharam all featuring.

Some scenes were also shot in Bangkok.

The film is credited with increasing tourism from China to Thailand with numbers of visitors more than 60% more in 2012 and 2013 than prior to the films release.

Main photo credit Vaenka Photography on flickr

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Tourism Industry Will Closely Monitor Seychelles Quarantine Decision

The Seychelles News Agency has reported that travellers who have received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine will now not be required to quarantine on arrival.

Travellers will also need to have a negative Covid PCR test taken no more than 72 hours prior to departure.

The Seychelles will require that visitors must have received both doses of recognised vaccines, currently Astra/Zeneca, Janssen, Moderna and Pfizer, at least two weeks prior to departure.

Visitors will need to have an “authentic certificate from their national health authority” to prove that they have received the vaccine.

Travellers without a vaccination and negative PCR test will still have to undergo a 10 day quarantine.

COVID-19 Vaccine. Credit Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

“We hope that this will open up the tourism industry for the locals primarily for the small hotels who are struggling on La Digue, Praslin and also on Mahe. And also provide the kick that our economy desperately needs.” 

Sylvestre Radegonde, Minister for Tourism via Seychelles News Agency

By mid-March it is hoped that travellers will only require a negative PCR test as the plan is to vaccinate 70% of the population, achieving herd immunity.

Visitors must access the Seychelles’ Travel Authorization application portal and upload proof of vaccination, negative PCR test as well as passport, flight and accommodation information prior to departure.

The World Watches

It is likely that many countries, especially those who have tourism as a major part of the GDP, will be watching the situation in the Seychelles with keen interest.

If the scheme can be seen as a success, it is likely that other countries will, tentatively, dip their toes into relaxing restrictions for vaccinated travellers.

Both Singapore and Thailand have looked at ways of encouraging more visitors with only limited success. The Indonesian island of Bali has also looked at the possibility to opening to tourists again.

Quarantine is seen by many as being a major factor in countries failing to attract tourists. Finding a safe way of removing quarantine is likely to increase tourism substantially, especially in areas with low numbers of Covid cases.

However, as we discussed in December, vaccinated travellers are unlikely to be the key to reopening borders by itself.

The primary aim of a vaccine is to stop illness, not stopping people getting the infection. Therefore a vaccine alone will not stop the spread of the virus and illness will still occur in people who have not received the vaccine.

Therefore vaccinated travellers could still transmit the virus to locals and if they have not been vaccinated could become seriously ill. Hence why a negative Covid-19 PCR test will also be required.

The combination of the vaccine and negative test will greatly reduce the risk of local transmission. It won’t however remove it all together, someone may become infected after the test was taken.

It may only take one outbreak to end the policy again.

Photo credit Derek Harris on Unsplash

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Thailand Covid Control Measures To Remain Until End Of Month

The Bangkok Post is this morning reporting that the current Covid-19 control measures will remain in place for the rest of January.

The nationwide Emergency Decree in Thailand was extended until the end of February earlier this month. Now it has been reported that control measures put in place following the recent outbreak centred on Samut Sakhon, will remain in place and not be reviewed until later in January.

The Samut Sakhon outbreak has resulted in cases in Thailand doubling and numbers are still of concern in Samut Sakhon, nearby Bangkok and southern border provinces.

Despite the news that measures are likely to remain in place all month, the Bangkok Post are also reporting that the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration will tomorrow propose that restrictions are relaxed for a number of business types including health spas, nursing homes and fitness centres.

Thailand has today reported an additional 59 new cases of Covid-19 and one more death. Total cases in the country during the pandemic now stands at 12,653 and 71 deaths.

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Film Locations in Southeast Asia Part 4

In this, the fourth part in our series of film locations, we look at one of the most famous film locations in the region. Koh Phi Phi, location of the hit 2000 film, The Beach.

We also have films starring Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage and Sylvester Stallone.

See Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 by following the links

The Beach (2000)

We avoided this film until now but of course could not ignore it all together.

Based on Alex Garland’s superb 1996 book of the same name, this Danny Boyle film, who also directed Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Days, 28 Days Later and Trainspotting, changed tourism for Koh Phi Phi in Thailand

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio the film follows Richard and his travels through Thailand, finding his way to a beach paradise inhabited by a group of fellow travellers.

The waterfall scene, where DiCaprio and others jump from a high cliff to the water below, was filmed at the Haew Suwat Waterfall in Khao Yai National Park in Central Vietnam.

The falls lies at the end of Thanarat Road in the centre of the park which is around 3 hours from Bangkok by bus. Don’t expect the falls to be as spectacular as in the film though. The drop is around 20 metres, still significant, into a beautiful bowl of water. It is a wonderful location but not as high or dramatic as depicted in the film.

Haew Suwat Waterfall, Thailand. Credit Shikant Rao on flickr.

The main location used, that became a mecca for tourists, was Maya Bay, on the island of Phi Phi Leh.

The production decided that the location was not the complete paradise that they needed and undertook extensive landscaping, making changes to sand dunes and removing trees to increase the size of the beach. Digital effects were also made to create the overall effect. Although attempts were made to return the beach to its original condition, a number of lawsuits were filed by environmentalists who believed the damage to the ecosystem was permanent and restoration attempts had failed.

Maya Bay was also damaged during the 2004 Tsunami on 26th December. Although the Bay itself escaped the worse of the tsunami it was still extensively damaged as monster waves hit the island.

However massive damage was done to the bay by the sheer number of tourists flocking there.

It is estimated that there 170 people visiting a day in 2008, by 2017 that had increased to 3,500 with reports of up to 5,000 per day on the busiest days. Maya Bay became anything but a paradise with tourists battling for spots to take pictures and boats cramming the waters. Extensive damage was done to the beach itself and the coral in the bay was all but destroyed.

Maya Beach, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. Credit Kent Wang on flickr.

A temporary ban on visitors was implemented in 2018 which was subsequently extended and continues today. There are reports that the coral has started to recover and that blacktip reef sharks had been sighted in the bay again. There is no fixed date when Maya Bay will reopen but when it does, visitor numbers are likely to be restricted and controlled.

The lead single from the soundtrack was Pure Shores by All Saints which reached number 1 in the UK, selling 824,000 copies, and also sold well throughout Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The official video was filmed on a beach but in a lot less glamorous location. It was filmed in January 2000, mostly at night, on a cold Holkham Beach in Norfolk, England

Entrapment (1999)

Starring Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ving Rhames this crime thriller featured a number of scenes set in Malaysia around Millennium Eve.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia was reported to have been unhappy that the Kuala Lumpur skyline was digitally added to waterways and village in Malacca depicting the Petronas Towers near to an impoverished area.

Bangkok Dangerous (1999 & 2008)

Two films in one here. The original film, made by the Pang brothers, was a Thai crime thriller. The brothers remade the film with Nicholas Cage in the lead role as a hitman.

Filming of the remake took place mainly in Bangkok during August 2006 although Tham Khao Luang in Phetchaburi was also the setting of the cave scenes.

I actually saw this film on a plane from London to Bangkok, luckily the car chases, gun battles and violence depicted in the film were nowhere to be seen during my visit.

Rambo 3 (1988)

 John Rambo is again played by Sylvester Stallone in this third in the Rambo series of films.

The film starts in Thailand living in a Thai monastery where he is helping with construction work in the grounds. He is also fighting in krabi-krabong matches in nearby Bangkok.

The monastery scenes were filmed in Chiang Mai and other scenes were filmed in, a not so near, Bangkok.

Main photo credit Noppadol Niyomthai on Unsplash

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Beef Pho

Pho is an incredibly popular dish throughout Vietnam and is often eaten at all times of the day.

It is generally considered to be Vietnam’s national dish and can be found in restaurants ad as street food.

Pho consists of a broth, rice noodles, herbs and spices and meat although of course it can be made as a vegetarian dish ideally with a more substantial key ingredient.

If you enjoy this recipe why not look at the other Southeast Asian inspired recipes.

Serves: 2 people
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time:  20 minutes 

Ingredients

750ml good quality beef stock

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

3cm fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp fish sauce

2 cloves

100g rice noodles

Lime wedges

Sriracha chilli sauce (or other hot sauce) to serve

200g thinly sliced rump or sirloin steak

2 red chillies, finely chopped

Bunch spring onions, sliced

1 star anise

2 tsp palm sugar

Beansprouts – handful

Fresh coriander – handful, chopped

Fresh Thai Basil (or normal Basil) – handful, chopped

Hoisin Sauce to serve

Method

  • Pour the beef stock into a pan and add the ginger, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, palm sugar, fish sauce and chilli. Simmer for 15 minutes
  • While the stock is simmering cook the noodles as per packet instructions – generally in boiling water for around 10 minutes
  • Once the beef stock has been simmering for 15 minutes add the cooked noodles to the stock pot.
  • Add the steak, beansprouts, coriander, Thai basil and spring onions to the pot
  • Remove from the heat and serve immediately. The final ingredients will continue to cook in the hot broth
  • Serve with a lime wedge and sriracha and hoisin sauce to taste

Main picture credit Deashoot on flickr

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Malaysia Extends Lockdown Following New Covid Cases

Last week Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that 5 states and 3 federal territories would be placed under a Movement Control Order (MCO) until 26th January.

The following day a State of Emergency was declared in the country effective, potentially, until 1st August.

Today Malaysia’s Senior Minister (Security Cluster) and Defence Minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the MCO would be extended to all states, apart from Sarawak, from this Friday until 4th February.

“Following advice from the Health Ministry, we have decided to enforce MCO on these states until Feb 4.”

“The MCO standard operating procedures are the same as I have announced before. That means residents are not allowed out, except for two from one household for daily necessities, including emergency cases,”

Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Malaysia Senior Minister (Security Cluster).

Meanwhile former Prime Minister Najib Razak has said that the country can no longer claim to have been successful in its fight against Covid-19.

Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported today that in a Facebook post Razak said that Malaysia had the opportunity to manage the virus in October but did not impose strict enough sanctions.

missed the opportunity to better manage the third wave in October when Putrajaya refused to ban interstate travel and impose stricter measures.

“We can no longer claim that Malaysia is among the nations that are successful in containing Covid.”

“We need to learn from our mistakes and realise that stricter measures in the early stages could have prevented a calamity in the long run.”

Najib Razak via FMT

Malaysia has so far recorded 165,371 cases of Covid-19, including a further 3,631 in the last 24 hours, and 619 deaths, including a further 14 recorded today.

Photo credit Redowana Rashid Hridy

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Emirates and Etihad To Join IATA Travel Pass Trial

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the development of their Travel Pass last November with the intention that it would have the capability of securely storing and sharing key data including Covid-19 test results and vaccination records.

More details were announced just before Christmas and the New Year bought news that Singapore Airlines would begin the first pilot of the app on routes to Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.

IATA now has two more partners in the roll out of the app after both Etihad Airways and Emirates announced plans to trial the product which may become key in reopening borders.

Etihad will start to utilise the app on select flights from Abu Dhabi during the first quarter of 2021 and will extend the trial to more routes if the trial is successful.

Emirates have announced that they will trial the app from April for flights departing Dubai. Initially it will be used to validate Covid-19 PCR test results.

“While international travel remains as safe as ever, there are new protocols and travel requirements with the current global pandemic. We have worked with IATA on this innovative solution to simplify and digitally transmit the information that is required by countries and governments into our airline systems, in a secure and efficient manner. We are proud to be one of the first airlines in the world to pilot this initiative, which will provide an enhanced customer experience and conveniently facilitate our customers’ travel needs.”

Adel Al Redha Emirates’ Chief Operating Officer

“We’re proud to work with Emirates to make IATA Travel Pass available in the Middle East region. With its global customer base and network traffic, Emirates as a partner will also bring invaluable input and feedback to improve the Travel Pass programme. This is the first step in making international travel during the pandemic as convenient as possible giving people the confidence that they are meeting all COVID-19 entry requirements by governments. As borders re-open, IATA Travel Pass will be further enhanced with more capabilities to meet all governments testing or vaccination verification requirements and Emirates customers will be among the first to have these services.”

Nick Careen, IATA Senior Vice President for Airport, Passenger, Cargo and Security

The IATA Travel Pass states that it has encrypted data under the control of the user and not stored centrally to ensure security of information. It will include:

  • Verified identity data
  • Verified Covid-19 test results
  • Verified vaccination records including for Covid-19
  • Relevant travel documentation to allow for a contactless travel journey

Meanwhile the Director General of IATA has reiterated his comments last week that testing was the immediate answer to reopening of borders but that vaccinations would become more important as the world-wide roll out continues.

“We will not be able to eliminate the risk of Covid-19 in any foreseeable timeline. So we must learn to manage the risk of Covid-19 so that we can safely resume more normal lives and activities – including travel.”

“For travel and tourism, testing is the immediate solution to re-open borders. And eventually that will transition to vaccine requirements. For both we need a globally accepted means to verify that people have accurate tests or genuine vaccines.”

Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO, IATA.

The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) last week criticised the use of quarantines and potential plans for vaccination requirements for travel. Qantas became the first International Airline to indicate that they would require proof of vaccination to allow travel in the future.

Photo credit Hasan Basri on flickr

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Indonesia Earthquake Death Toll Rises To 73 As New Disaster Hits

A major 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck Sulawesi Island in Indonesia on Friday 15th January and more tremors have hit the region over the last few days.

The earthquakes have been reported in Majene, Mamuju, Mamasa, and Polewali Mandar and a tsunami warning has been issued.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNBP) has reported that so far 485,232 lives are predicted to be affected by this earthquake, around 27,850 people are have been forced to evacuate from their homes, 73 people have lost their lives and 743 injured.

Meanwhile in South Kalimantan flooding has been described as possibly the worst in 50 years by Indonesia President Joko Widodo. Ten cities and regencies in the region have been affected by the flooding which has displaced 39,549 people out of the homes and resulted in at least 15 deaths.

The country has also experienced two volcanic eruptions over the weekend. On Saturday, Mount Semeru in East Java erupted, sending hot air and ash clouds 4.5km over its crater. Today Mount Merapi in Central Java erupted.

The disasters make the fight against Covid-19 even harder in the country which has so far seen 917,015 cases of Covid-19 and 26,282 deaths, the highest in the region.

Photo credit Oregon State University

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Covid Cases Surge in Southeast Asia

Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand are all experiencing increases in cases of Covid-19 as the battle against the virus continues.

Indonesia today (Monday 18th January) reported an additional 9,086 cases and 295 deaths related to Covid-19 to give a total of 917,015 cases and 26,282 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Malaysia reported an additional 3,306 cases, a total of 161,740, and 4 deaths, a total of 605, today amidst reports of the healthcare system being stretched to its limits. The Straits Times are reporting that the Malaysian government is looking to acquire private healthcare resources to supplement medical facilities.

Reports say that doctors are now speaking out publicly about the difficulties being experienced by the medical community. It is believed that there are around 34,000 beds available for Covid patients in the country which currently has 38,791 active cases of which 226 are serious / critical.

Malaysia declared a State of Emergency last week just a day after additional restrictions were implemented as Covid cases increased.

Meanwhile the Philippines today reported 2,163 new cases of Covid-19 the biggest daily increase since 8th November. The country has reported 502,736 cases of the virus plus 9,909 deaths, including 14 in the last 24 hours.

Thailand had seem to have the virus under control until a new outbreak centred on Samut Sakhon was discovered on 17th December. People from all over Thailand visit the fish markets in Samut Sakhon and the outbreak quickly spread to many regions of the country.

The numbers in Thailand may seem much lower than other countries in the region, an additional 369 cases in the last 24 hours for a total of 12,423. However the total is double that prior to Christmas.

Thailand has so far recorded 70 deaths.

Photo credit Braden Jarvis on Unsplash

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