The head of the Patong Entertainment Business Association (PEBA) has openly criticised the system for people to register to be vaccinated for COVID-19, calling the system over-complicated and overlooking the need to prioritise entertainment venue workers in the key tourism town.
Initial hiccups in getting people to register saw the association having to repeatedly submit names and details of more than 500 staff and management, PEBA President Weerawit Kreuasombat told The Phuket News.
“At first, the Phuket government sent an order to our association instructing us to start a registration service, so we opened a written registration desk in front of Illuzion and very quickly had the names of 554 people working in Bangla,” he said.
“The 554 names are owners and workers in entertainment venues as well as some of their relatives in Patong,” he added.
“After we submitted the list of names, they told us to enter the name into the Excel file. They then explained to us that the team of registration officers had a lot of problems entering the information into the database, so I had to ask all of them to register again by themselves through the website,” Mr Weerawit explained.
“At this stage, I understand that we do not have enough medical staff because many people have to be vaccinated each day. A lot of people gather at the centres to be vaccinated, especially at Saphan Hin [near Phuket Town] and at Jungceylon shopping mall [in Patong],” he said.
“I think the registration through the website is quite difficult for some people. Most workers know how to do it… but some people are still confused by the conditions for being approved to receive the vaccine, such as their medical history, what is a chronic disease and just the age requirements,” Mr Weerawit noted.
“I appreciate the effort from everyone and know well that everyone wants to do their best, however, I think we need local municipal officers to open for people to register and enter information into the system for local people, as I think that if each individual enters information by themselves, it will become a mess. Some people may be left behind,” he said.
“Today, they are trying to vaccinate all people, not only the front-line workers in the tourism industry. However, some entertainment venue workers told me that they are still afraid of the side effects of the vaccinations.
“I understand the fear of side effects, but I would say that the registration system is a fail [sic] as it requires people to go through a lot of processes,” Mr Weerawit said.
“Some people thought they were already registered just because medical health volunteers had come to their houses and asked for their information,” he noted.
Mr Weerawit also pointed out that foreigners working in tourism-related businesses in Patong had been neglected in the initial push to have people register to be vaccinated.
Asked whether the PEBA submitted names and details of foreigners working in Patong, he replied, “Nope, as we knew that the government asked only for only Thai people first.”
However, Mr Weerawit quickly pointed out, “For me, I think the government must provide vaccinations to everyone. No matter what nationality the workers are, they must be vaccinated. I want all of them to be vaccinated, but it is beyond my power to do that.
“At this stage, nationality does not matter, we have to focus on the type of work they do and where they work. However, I understand that for the government, they must focus on the majority of people first,” he said.
“I think all business operators who have foreign employees must provide them vaccinations even if they have to pay for them,” he added.
Following the several outbreak clusters of COVID19 emanating from entertainment venues in Bangkok earlier this month, resulting in enforced earlier closing times and heightened anti-COVID measures in the capital, Mr Weerawit pointed out that entertainment venues needed special attention.
In terms of how important it is for Patong entertainment industry workers, both staff and management, to be vaccinated as a priority, Mr Weerawit said, “It is very important because the workers are like those who are welcoming guests in our living room. They are like a connection between tourists and other groups of workers, like tuk-tuk drivers. The workers have close contact with tourists, so they have to be safe.”
However, Mr Weerawit also noted that the feeling on the street was a lesser fear of COVID than the ongoing economic pressure continuing to bring financial hardship for all people in the town.
“Basically, at this stage, we are getting used to COVID-19 news. I don’t think I am afraid of the infection as much as before, as the infection depends on how healthy we are and our immunity. The people at risk are only youths and elders. Right now, we also have vaccines, so the fear is becoming less and less,” he said.
“To be honest, the most important thing right now is income, the money in our pockets. This is for both venue operators and staff. We have tried everything we can think of. At this stage, we are not afraid of being infected with COVID-19, but of dying with no income.
“Bangla Rd is still quiet. We have a lot of customers only on the nights when we have concerts by famous singers. Overall, we are still suffering,” he said.
Despite the ongoing economic crisis and many ordinary people still unable to pay household bills, underhanded antics are still being practiced in Patong, Mr Weerwawit also noted.
“Although business is still very quiet, some officers who make their own benefits from operators keep coming to Bangla Rd. We are dying, as we have no income, but they keep coming to get benefits from us. It is like entertainment operators and workers are being beaten by the officers,” he said.
“In normal situations, we understand they do it, as we tend to operate in the grey areas, but for now we hardly have any income which must be spent on paying electricity bills and employees. I want this problem to be highlighted,” he said.