The exercise, announced on Monday, was held as a practice session for the officers involved and to build confidence among the public in the disease-prevention measures, Governor Narong explained.
The rehearsal, which saw 10 actors play the part of foreign tourists arriving and undergoing each step of the testing and verification process for being allowed into the country, was video recorded and will be shared with the public to demonstrate its effectiveness, he said.
To further calm fears that foreign arrivals in Phuket would spark a second wave of COVID-19 infections across the island, Governor Narong stressed that no foreigners would be allowed to arrive in Phuket until all disease-prevention measures at the airport are approved by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok.
“Officers from Bangkok have already come and assessed the procedures in place [at the airport], and they were satisfied to a certain extent,” he said.
“Now we have conducted a full rehearsal, we are waiting on Bangkok to decide whether we can receive tourists,” he said.
“We are ready and waiting for the central government to approve foreigners to start entering [Thailand through Phuket]. If they do allow Phuket as a port of entry to the country, we are ready to perform the same protocols as practiced at Suvarnabhumi Airport,” he added.
“Sooner or later, Phuket will have to receive foreign tourists to the area in order to revive the economy and the tourism industry in Phuket, because the Phuket economy cannot be driven without foreign tourists,” Governor Narong said.
“And while allowing foreign tourists to come in is a decision that must be based on economic recovery, the health of the people of Phuket must not be exposed to a second wave [of COVID-19], and if a transmission does occur, the disease must be controlled in a timely manner,” he added.
Phuket International Airport Director Thanee Chuangchoo said that the rehearsal was to show that Phuket is ready to directly receive any of the 11 groups of people already allowed to enter the country.
Mr Thanee also emphasised that the protocols and procedures in place at Phuket airport are the same as those used at Suvarnabhumi, where foreign arrivals have been landing for more than a month.
“Officers at Phuket Airport Immigration and Customs went to observe the practices at Suvarnabhumi Airport, and returned to make sure the same practices are conducted here,” he explained.
“We are ready, now we wait every day for the order from the CCSA to agree to allow foreigners to enter Phuket Airport,” Mr Thanee said.
“Please be assured that we are ready in all aspects, including the tools, equipment and personnel, in receiving foreign passengers entering Thailand. We are just waiting for the central government on when to start or what further guidelines will be followed,” he said.