However, any easing of measures such as allowing alcohol to be consumed in restaurants has yet to be discussed and resolved by the Phuket Communicable Disease Committee, he said.
The CCSA announced today that in total 53 provinces have designated “yellow zone” provinces, effective from Monday (June 21). Among them are Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi.
CCSA spokesman Taweesilp Visanuyothin in his briefing after the meeting today explained that in yellow-zone provinces crowd activities must not gather more than 200 people.
Restaurants, schools, shopping centres and department stores can operate as usual. Sports facilities can open with limited spectators, he added.
However, when asked about the easing of restrictions approved by the CCSA coming into effect in Phuket, Governor Narong said, “Today the CCSA reset their colour-coding system [of provinces], and Phuket is classified as one of the yellow provinces. Some measures are to be eased, but some will remain. We need to discuss the measures again.”
Asked specifically about whether entertainment venues, including pubs and bars, would be allowed to reopen, Governor Narong said, “For entertainment venues, we need to see the measures from the CCSA.”
However, Dr Taweesilp in Bangkok today was very clear: In all zones, people must wear face masks outside their homes and entertainment venues are to remain closed.
The Phuket News notes that although the CCSA may allow COVID restrictions to be eased, it is now long accepted practice to allow provincial governors discretion to enforce more stringent measures so that tighter restrictions can be enforced in outbreak areas, while allowing measures to be eased where provincial governors deem it safe to do so.
Focusing on the implications for Phuket in receiving vaccinated foreign tourists after July 1 under the Phuket Tourism Sandbox scheme, Governor Narong said, “We look forward to opening the island of Phuket in accordance with the guidelines approved by the CCSA, whose vision we want to see is a smooth operation. The economy can be restored while effectively preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“The measures are quite comprehensive considering those who will travel [to Phuket] will be from low- or medium-risk groups, including those who have already been vaccinated and after arriving in Phuket must be tested repeatedly, three times: the first day, the 6th day and the 12th day. And they must stay in Phuket for 14 nights before traveling to other provinces in Thailand. But in the case of leaving the Kingdom, they can go without having to wait up to 14 days,” he said.
“In addition, there will be an operations centre linking the tracking of people who travel to Phuket as well, at Phuket Airport, at the Tha Chatchai checkpoint for those arriving by land, and at Rassada Pier, Ao Por Pier and Chalong Pier for those arriving by water,” he continued.
Regarding the tracking of visitors in Phuket after July 1, Governor Narong handed the discussion over to Pracha Asawateera, a PhD academic with the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (M-DES) involved in the operation of the vaccination registration web portal ‘Phuket Must Win’ (www.ภูเก็ตต้องชนะ.com), to reply.
Mr Pracha made no mention of tracking wristbands, although they are already used for international arrivals by yacht.
Instead, he explained, “We will use the tracking app Mor Chana, which Thai people already are familiar with. For foreign tourists, we will create an English version of the app which will notify officers if the tourists turn off the location sharing.
“We will coordinate with SHA+ managers in each hotel to send information about foreign tourist guests’ movements to the central EOC [Emergency Operations Centre] every day.
“At the checkpoints, we will have a system for officers to check. The DEPA [Digital Economy Promotion Agency] will connect the network from the three ports together to share the information. We have contacted Immigration to share their information,” Mr Pracha said.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Phuket Office Director Nanthasiri Ronnasiri said that the TAT expects about 6,000 foreign arrivals in July.
However, she added, that the number is expected to rise quickly, the Phuket TAT office aiming to have approximately 500,000 Thai tourists visiting Phuket and 129,000 foreign visitors arriving on the island from July through September.
Ms Nantasiri also said that five airlines had confirmed flights to land in Phuket on July 1. “There are Qatar Airways, El Al Israel Airlines, Singapore Airlines, airlines from the United Arab Emirates and from Dubai,” she said.
“Most arrivals coming from Europe will change flights in Dubai. and most of them are business class. This shows potential tourists, high purchasing power, and almost all flights are full,” she said.
However, Natapanu Nopakun, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Information and Deputy Spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, speaking from Government House in Bangkok in delivering in the English-language briefing of the CCSA meeting today, gave a word of caution about the July 1 reopening.
Mr Natapanu noted that the regarding the easing of COVID measures in the yellow zone provinces, which he said especially related to restaurants and convenience stores, the details will be finalised and will be published soon through the Royal Gazette
“We will talk about that on Monday, when they are announced,” he said.
Regarding the July 1 reopening, Mr Natapanu noted, “There must be a start. We have to start somewhere, and we will start with Phuket as the pilot province.
“For Phuket in particular, the CCSA [today] also talked about the contingency plan in case any untoward incidents happen - if the situation is not controllable as soon as the province is opened.
“Just in layman’s terms I can say that whatever is opened can still be closed. Whatever adjustments we have to make, we will have to make it,” he said.
“But if all goes well and Phuket opens on the 1st of July and nothing unexpected happens and the schemes and the enforcement and the controls are problem-free, and the tourists are able to come to come from abroad to Phuket without having to quarantine in a hotel ‒ it’s a pseudo-quarantine, but it’;s a good kind of quarantine, you can travel around the island during the 14 days, you are not stuck in a hotel ‒ the contingency plan is being prepared for that and hopefully that when we open we will not have to make any drastic changes or have to close the province once again, but in any case we will be prepared for any emergency situation,” he said.
“But if Phuket works well, other provinces will follow suit in due course,” Mr Natapanu added.
Additional reporting by Eakkapop Thongtub