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Deputy PM urged to ease Phuket lockdown, virus expected to cost island B127bn in lost tourism

Deputy PM urged to ease Phuket lockdown, virus expected to cost island B127bn in lost tourism

PHUKET: Phuket business leaders have urged Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, as well as Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakan and Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Yuthasak Supasorn, to relax the lockdown restrictions in place in Phuket to relieve the economic suffering of residents and businesses on the island.

By Eakkapop Thongtub

Friday 24 April 2020, 11:22AM

Deputy Prime Minister Anutin speaks to the press after the meeting. Photo: PR Dept

Deputy Prime Minister Anutin speaks to the press after the meeting. Photo: PR Dept

The trio were in Phuket yesterday (Apr 23) to lead a meeting on the economic impact of COVID-19 on tourism. At the meeting it was explained that the predicted impact for the six months February through July totalled a loss of some B127.159 billion in lost tourism revenues.

The meeting, held at Phuket Provincial Hall, saw Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana present, along with a host of high-ranking Phuket officials.

Thanusak Phungdet, President of the Phuket Chamber of Commerce, urged to ease the “tambon lockdown”, under which all non-essential travel between subdistricts on the island is banned.

In announcing the “tambon lockdown”, Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana pointed out that Phuket is the only province in the country to have such a measure in place.

“We can keep ‘red risk areas’ closed, but open ‘non-red areas’ for business,” Mr Thanusak said.

“We want to relax the lockdown as soon as possible, so the province can prepare for a return to normality. Keeping the borders between subdistricts closed for a long time will cause the people to suffer from not being able to work and having no income. Right now there are people who want to go to work, but they must travel between subdistricts to do so,” he added.

“It is expected that there will be no confidence among tourists to come to Phuket for the next six months. It is therefore very important that the private sector and the people to create jobs,” Mr Thanusak said.

“If the subdistrict borders are opened, it will have a positive psychological effect on the area,” he added.

Kongsak Khongphongsakorn, President of the Thailand Hotels Association Southern chapter, said that hotels on the island are aiming to reopen, at least partially, in July.

“We are confident that Chinese tourists will come from October 1 onwards, and we should start receiving bookings from June 1,” he said.

In the meantime, hotels will focus on the domestic market, but for even that to work some changes are required, he added.

Mr Kongsak said that “Big Data” could be used to help investors and policymakers plan further development of the tourism industry, including understanding tourism markets better and dealing with issues that affect Phuket’s appeal, such as traffic on the island.

Phuket Tourist Association President Bhummikitti Ruktaengam also joined the call to ease the lockdown restrictions.

“The key is to restore confidence among tourists that we are taking measures to help control the spread of the virus,” he said.

“We also should be taking this opportunity to ‘repair’ Phuket by fixing some of the major problems the island has been facing, such as the problem with traffic,” he said.


Sombat Atiset, Executive Chairman of the Katathani group of hotels, said he would like to see efforts to appeal to “unlock” the European market.

“By July or August we should be able to maintain our existing markets and ensure that Phuket is without disease,” he said.

Deputy PM Anutin, who also serves as the Public Health Minister, said anti-epidemic measures rolled out so far have “reasonably good” effect, and he said easing some of the restrictions was coming.

Businesses such as hairdressers and restaurants will see some reprieve, but the easing of restrictions will be limited, he said.

However, measures will be in place to try to prevent a “second wave”, Mr Anutin said.

“There is no vaccine yet, which means there is no way to prevent this disease,” he said.

He noted that the lack of tourists has allowed major tourist areas to recover their natural beauty.

“As for stimulating tourism, we need to look at the big picture. Don’t expect foreigners because some countries still have problems in their country, such as China and Europe, and so on. 

“Such tourists will probably gradually return, but by then we must have everything in proper order. We need to have a vaccine, when that happens, they will come back,” he said

“Until then we need to stay vigilant and do our best to keep the disease under control,” he added.

Tourism Minister Phiphat also urged people to understand that any opening of areas to allow businesses to start trading again will be “step by step”, he said.

“The ministry is not neglecting Phuket. Previously, Phuket generated over B400 billion a year in tourism revenues,” he said.

He also noted that aout “50-60 provinces” are currently not risk areas for the disease.

“The Tourism Authority of Thailand will organise a tourism campaign in the country. But to do this hotels must first be well prepared to provide convenience, cleanliness, and safety before accepting people,” said Mr Phiphat.

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Jor12 | 26 April 2020 - 10:14:22

To advocated ones wallet is to consider welfare, because without it the wallet is worthless. The domestic market is that market within the confines of a particular area. The opening of borders has not yet been definitely considered. 

Kurt | 25 April 2020 - 13:55:35

1:Business leaders are advocating for their wallets, not for Phuket peoples welfare. 2: Focus on what domestic market? 3: Welcoming chinese tourists in October? Bringing  the next expected Covid19 wave to Phuket with Chinese not vaccinated yet by that time?
When some thinking/analyses starts here?

Christy Sweet | 25 April 2020 - 10:23:18

How nice one is healthy and has a small chance of death is the epitome of selfishness  A medical clearance certificate is useless practically void as soon as you walk out the door of the testing facility into the population.  We're not going back to "normal"  ever. And this is just the beginning of something that will never end.

Kurt | 25 April 2020 - 10:02:17

Repair Phuket's roads? huh? Where? So, during normal overcrowded road use roads can not be repaired? Than minimise number of visitors to keep up Phuket. By the way, when do we start to clean ditches, canals,  and drains to be prepared for 'approaching' wet season?

JohnC | 25 April 2020 - 08:54:09

“We also should be taking this opportunity to ‘repair’ Phuket by fixing some of the major problems the island has been facing, such as the problem with traffic”.  What a joke! They don't repair Phuket, they just continue to rape it. The coronavirus is the best thing to ever happen to Phuket's traffic chaos. It also saved our water supply this hot season because of the mass exodus o...

friend | 25 April 2020 - 07:52:58

balance between the public health implications and the need to restart local economies.

Edward Reumann | 24 April 2020 - 21:37:03

What are Phuket's plans to test each and every arrival coming into Phuket?  Seems you are more concerned about Chinese YUAN than the safety of Thai people.  They are the cause of this pandemic.  Cannot have head buried in the sand.

ThorFinger | 24 April 2020 - 19:57:47

Jsrit... you are correct. It is not beyond reason that everyone who enters Phuket must have a medical clearance certificate. I don't think any visitors would mind. 
Supaporn...Phuket will disappear if we are just reactive and not proactive. Coronaviruses are on the increase. This is just one. How we respond is the key. In the age of innovation, that is just what we need. We need a better way....

ThorFinger | 24 April 2020 - 19:52:03

If people have previous lung damage, low immune systems, or diseases like diabetes then they are deemed 'at risk'. The rest of the population (barring the elderly) have VERY little chance of dying. If I get the virus I should have a 99.7% chance of surviving. Frankly I have more chance of expiring from lack of pedestrian crossings and motorbike riders who do not know road rules!!

Christy Sweet | 24 April 2020 - 18:52:04

 People killing themselves over money  is THE  problem. Time for a reset. So long bully capitalism

Christy Sweet | 24 April 2020 - 18:44:37

At risk? For what? Getting it? We're all gonna get it. You simply do not understand the problem- if we all get it at once is the problem. Yeah it's a negative thing and I usually reserve my comments on THIS  forum to negative observations.  I have the kitten/rainbow group for any mandatory positivity. 

ThorFinger | 24 April 2020 - 14:41:31

And sorry Christy but you're doing my head in. Always negative. 
Generally speaking there is only a very small amount of the population that are at risk. I have less than 1.3% chance of dying from covid19 and I'm 59. My son is 19 and has over 20% chance due to diabetes. Figures from WHO.
We have to stop the hype, drama and fear. 

ThorFinger | 24 April 2020 - 14:30:18

Unless Phuket opens soon,  you will see irreparable business closures.
The facts are that we have had zero deaths to covid19 but sadly at least 5 suicides because of the economics. 
I have 4 family members who are at risk. At 59 I am not. We must keep the at risk population safe,  not by locking ourselves away and destroying lives in the process but by keeping them safe until a cure.

jsrit | 24 April 2020 - 14:05:57

TESTING is the key.... vaccine will take too long. People around the world need to be tested. Then they can be welcomed and we can get back to normal. We cant have anyone infected arriving in Phuket!

Supaporn | 24 April 2020 - 13:39:23

yeah, right, october...

in october there will be a second wave of covid19. there will be no tourism until mid 2021. get real, good god.

Christy Sweet | 24 April 2020 - 12:12:00

Don't hold your breath on a vaccine. Once everyone has gotten this, and they will if they haven't already- the profit motive will evaporate and pharmaceutical conglomerates will lose interest.


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