The formal request came at a meeting at the airport with Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong and Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) Chief Dr Kusak Kukiattikoon yesterday (Nov 11).
“The process takes a lot of space and requires specialized personnel,” Phuket airport General Manager Monchai Tanode explained.
However, current regulations under the Ministry of Transport requires Airports of Thailand (AOT) to organise swab samples to be taken from arrivals at all six airports that AoT operates within the country, including Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang international airports in Bangkok, he said.
“Phuket airport is aware of the guidelines for passenger screening to strictly comply with public health standards set by the government and strictly follows the process of international arrivals at Phuket airport,” Mr Monchai noted.
However, he added, “The RT-PCR testing process requires a large number of health personnel and a waiting area to be prepared, and a large facility where the tests are conducted.
“AoT therefore has joined this meeting between Phuket airport and related agencies to find measures to facilitate passengers as much as possible, but also come up with a solution that must be under strict disease control measures as well,” he said.
“It is estimated that in November 2021 there will be an average of 2,387 international arrivals per day,” Mr Monchai predicted.
“Considering the increase in passenger estimates, coupled with physical constraints at Phuket airport, this may affect the testing process within the airport and directly affect the arrival process and the airport service quality,” he said.
“There will be congestion in the terminal building and we will be unable to increase the capacity to accommodate future tourists,” he added.
“Therefore, it is advisable to request assistance [for AoT] to no longer be responsible for organising the detection of infectious diseases within Phuket airport, and we ask to consider having the tests for infection conducted at a hospital or a lodging facility or a quarantine facility set by the government, or a place that a partner hospital has prescribed, as the case may be,” Mr Monchai said.
“This is to ensure that internal operations and operations at Phuket Airport are more convenient, faster and more efficient,” he concluded.
Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew noted in a post on his official Facebook page yesterday that AoT Phuket, which operates Phuket airport, also requested that foreign airlines allow passengers to prepare paper documents of RT-PCR test results for entering the country to be ready, for the speed of staff work and to reduce congestion.
It was also requested for domestic airlines to be no longer required to have passengers present to airline staff their travel registration on gophuget.com website or present their proof of vaccination or COVID tests in order to board flights to Phuket, as currently still required by provincial order issued by Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew.
Governor Narong himself noted yesterday that removing that requirement to enter Phuket by flight needed further discussion.
“We still have to wait for the resolution of the next Communicable Disease Committee meeting,” Governor Narong said.
The request to have domestic arrivals by flight landing in Phuket no longer being required to present their gophuget.com travel details registration and proof of vaccination or COVID tests to airline staff follows AoT Phuket last Thursday confirming that no such documents were needed to passengers travelling from Phuket to Bangkok.
“Passengers can travel to Bangkok as usual without having to show vaccination documents or test results,” AoT Phuket said plainly in its announcement.