Food, drink banned on domestic Thai flights to keep passengers masked

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Jan. 1 (UPI) — No food or drink will be allowed on domestic flights in Thailand as of Friday to make sure airline passengers are masked at all times to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand announced.

“In case of emergency or necessity, cabin crew may consider according to the situation,” a message from the aviation agency said Friday.

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“If deemed necessary, cabin crew may provide drinking water for the passenger with consideration of isolated area, as far away from other passengers as possible.”

In addition, travelers may only bring their own newspapers and magazines, and must take them when they exit the airplane, the agency announced. Public reading material, other than safety cards, will be removed from domestic flights.

“Cleaning time after each stop of domestic flight is extremely short, since operators tend to do the quickest turnaround as possible and I think it is unlikely operators would be able to thoroughly clean all of these items,” Chula Sukmanop, the agency’s director general, told CNN.

“Therefore, having non-essential reading materials on-board would create more risk of virus exposure,” he added.

The longest domestic flights within Thailand can last up to two hours, from the northern city of Chiang Mai in the north to the island of Phuket and to the southern resort of of Krabi.

Thailand is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases, with a record high 1,253 new active cases in the past week. The country has recorded 7,163 confirmed cases and 63 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Johns Hopkins University online COVID-19 tracker.

Thailand’s aviation authority earlier in December loosened restrictions on international flights into the country, allowing a special tourist visa, which includes a mandatory 14-day quarantine for international visitors.

Japan moved last week to suspend all international air travel to slow the spread of a new, more transmissible COVID-19 variant first discovered in Britain and now found in more than 20 countries.