Asia Today: Thailand lets in some foreigners, opens schools

BANGKOK — (AP) — Thailand has begun a fifth phase of relaxations of COVID-19 restrictions, allowing the reopening of schools and high-risk entertainment venues such as pubs and massage parlors that had been shut since mid-March.

It also is allowing in foreign visitors on a controlled basis, limiting entry to those with existing family or work ties to the country, students, technical experts for businesses, investors and specially invited VIPs. Scheduled passenger flights to Thailand were suspended in early April.

The number of foreign visitors allowed into the country each day is limited to 200, and they are supposed to travel on repatriation flights bringing Thai citizens home. All returnees, foreign and Thai, will be subject to varying degrees of quarantine.

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All confirmed coronavirus cases for the past five weeks have been repatriated Thais rather than cases of local transmission, giving the government confidence to lift restrictions. However, it has extended through July a state of emergency, though critics charge it is used to suppress political dissent.

Reopened establishments still have to maintain social distancing rules. A contact tracing app already used at shopping malls is also mandated for the reopened entertainment venues, including “soapy” massage parlors, which are often illegal fronts for sexual services.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea reopened Wednesday after being closed for four months due to the coronavirus pandemic, with hundreds of visitors applauding as the gate opened. The two parks near Tokyo have new guidelines, including limiting the number of entrants in three shifts to maintain social distancing. No handshakes, hugging or photos taken with Mickey Mouse and other characters are allowed. Though characters greet guests from afar, their signature parades and shows have been suspended to avoid crowds. Entrants are asked to get their temperatures checked at the gate, sanitize their hands and wear masks while in the park.

— The Philippines has retained a strict lockdown in a central city President Rodrigo Duterte described as a new coronavirus hot spot, while the capital and the rest of the country were placed in lighter quarantines. The moves further stretch three-month lockdowns and quarantines in the country that has counted more than 37,500 people infected, including 1,266 who have died. Duterte blamed Cebu city, which will remain under a lockdown up to July 15, for many violations of the rules that led to infection spikes. “Cebu is now the hot spot for COVID. Why? Many of you did not follow. So don’t get mad at me,” he said.

— India reported 18,653 new coronavirus cases and 507 deaths in the past 24 hours with June proving to be the worst month since the pandemic hit the country in late January. India’s total cases reached 585,493 on Wednesday, more than 400,000 of them reported in June alone. India's health ministry said 17,400 people have died. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed concern over negligence in maintaining social distance and wearing masks.

— South Korea is considering listing religious facilities with nightclubs, hostess bars and karaoke rooms as “high risk” venues for the spread of COVID-19 following a slew of transmissions tied to church gatherings. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Wednesday more than 40% of the country’s newly confirmed infections over the previous three days were traced to places of worship. He pleaded people to refrain from religious gatherings and criticized churches and other facilities for failing to use proper prevention measures. High-risk facilities are advised to close or otherwise must enforce anti-virus measures and register visitors with smartphone QR codes so virus carriers can be tracked.

— China reported just three new cases Wednesday, all in the capital Beijing where an outbreak last month appears to have run its course amid intense testing and case tracing. No new deaths were reported, leaving the toll at 4,634 among 83,534 cases of COVID-19 recorded since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year. With 328 cases reported since June 11, Beijing has reinstated some prevention measures, suspended classes for schoolchildren and carried out 8.3 million virus tests among the city’s more than 20 million residents.

People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus walk toward the entrance to Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, near Tokyo, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Tokyo Disneyland reopens for the first time in four months after suspending operations due to coronavirus concerns. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
People wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus walk toward the entrance to Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, near Tokyo, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Tokyo Disneyland reopens for the first time in four months after suspending operations due to coronavirus concerns. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara) (Koji Sasahara)
A visitor gestures to have the body temperature of a Mickey Mouse doll checked at the entrance of Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, near Tokyo, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Tokyo Disneyland reopened for the first time in four months after suspending operations due to coronavirus concerns. (Kyodo News via AP)
A visitor gestures to have the body temperature of a Mickey Mouse doll checked at the entrance of Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, near Tokyo, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Tokyo Disneyland reopened for the first time in four months after suspending operations due to coronavirus concerns. (Kyodo News via AP) (083006+0900)
Visitors wave to Disney characters performing at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, near Tokyo, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Tokyo Disneyland reopened for the first time in four months after suspending operations due to coronavirus concerns. (Kyodo News via AP)
Visitors wave to Disney characters performing at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, near Tokyo, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Tokyo Disneyland reopened for the first time in four months after suspending operations due to coronavirus concerns. (Kyodo News via AP) (Uncredited)
A visitor has her body temperature checked at the entrance of Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, near Tokyo, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Tokyo Disneyland reopened for the first time in four months after suspending operations due to coronavirus concerns. (Kyodo News via AP)
A visitor has her body temperature checked at the entrance of Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, near Tokyo, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Tokyo Disneyland reopened for the first time in four months after suspending operations due to coronavirus concerns. (Kyodo News via AP) (Uncredited)
Visitors wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus take a selfie at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, near Tokyo, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Tokyo Disneyland reopens for the first time in four months after suspending operations due to coronavirus concerns. (Kyodo News via AP)
Visitors wearing face masks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus take a selfie at Tokyo Disneyland in Urayasu, near Tokyo, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Tokyo Disneyland reopens for the first time in four months after suspending operations due to coronavirus concerns. (Kyodo News via AP) (093104+0900)
Warisara Klawkla, a daughter of teacher Watcharee Klawkla, colors a drawing made to educate children on COVID-19 prevention methods while her mother help cooking a meal at Makkasan preschool in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, June 24, 2020. The teachers, many of whom are from the community, are eager to have the children back in the classroom but recognize the challenges posed by social distancing active preschoolers in a compact facility in this densely populated community. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Warisara Klawkla, a daughter of teacher Watcharee Klawkla, colors a drawing made to educate children on COVID-19 prevention methods while her mother help cooking a meal at Makkasan preschool in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, June 24, 2020. The teachers, many of whom are from the community, are eager to have the children back in the classroom but recognize the challenges posed by social distancing active preschoolers in a compact facility in this densely populated community. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe) (Gemunu Amarasinghe)
Police officers wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus stand guard near the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Police officers wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus stand guard near the Japanese embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon) (Ahn Young-joon)
In this photo provided by the Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Malacanang presidential palace compound in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The Philippine president has retained a strict lockdown in a central city he described as a new coronavirus hot spot, while the capital and the rest of the country were placed in lighter quarantines. (Albert Alcain/Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division via AP)
In this photo provided by the Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Malacanang presidential palace compound in Manila, Philippines on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The Philippine president has retained a strict lockdown in a central city he described as a new coronavirus hot spot, while the capital and the rest of the country were placed in lighter quarantines. (Albert Alcain/Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division via AP) (Albert Alcain)
Health officials disinfect an area around a hospital after one of the hospital's patients tested positive for the new coronavirus in Gwangju, South Korea, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. South Korea is considering including religious facilities on the same list with nightclubs, hostess bars and karaoke rooms as "high risk" venues for the spread of COVID-19 following a slew of transmissions tied to church gatherings. (Park Chul-hong/Yonhap via AP)
Health officials disinfect an area around a hospital after one of the hospital's patients tested positive for the new coronavirus in Gwangju, South Korea, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. South Korea is considering including religious facilities on the same list with nightclubs, hostess bars and karaoke rooms as "high risk" venues for the spread of COVID-19 following a slew of transmissions tied to church gatherings. (Park Chul-hong/Yonhap via AP) (Park Chul-hong)
Tourists in face masks take photos from the observation deck at the Kuala Lumpur Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Malaysia entered the easing Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) after three months of coronavirus restrictions. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Tourists in face masks take photos from the observation deck at the Kuala Lumpur Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Malaysia entered the easing Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) after three months of coronavirus restrictions. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian) (Vincent Thian)
Tourists pose for photos at the Skybox at Kuala Lumpur Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Malaysia entered the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) after three months of coronavirus restrictions. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Tourists pose for photos at the Skybox at Kuala Lumpur Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Malaysia entered the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) after three months of coronavirus restrictions. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian) (Vincent Thian)
Tourists wearing face mask takes pictures at observation deck at Kuala Lumpur Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Malaysia entered the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) after three months of coronavirus restrictions. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
Tourists wearing face mask takes pictures at observation deck at Kuala Lumpur Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, July 1, 2020. Malaysia entered the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) after three months of coronavirus restrictions. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian) (Vincent Thian)