ACM Eakchanat Rattanaubon, Pawin Chamniprasat and Dr Korn Pongchittham, all advisors to Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong, chaired a meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall yesterday afternoon to be be brought up to speed on key issues affecting Phuket’s tourism industry, and affecting the Phuket Sandbox scheme.
The three advisors are to return to and report the key issues central government figures in Bangkok, noted a report by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department (PR Phuket).
Joining the meeting yesterday were Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong, Phuket Public Health Office (PPHO) Chief Dr Kusak Kukiattikoon and Vachira Phuket Hospital Director Dr Chalermpong Sukontapol.
Also present were Phuket Chamber of Commerce President Thanusak Phungdet, Thai Hotels Association Southern Chapter President Kongsak Khoopongsakorn and Phuket Tourism Council President Thanet Tantipiriyakit.
The five issues raised yesterday were: the COVID outbreak situation in Phuket; the need for and rollout of the third-dose ‘booster’ vaccinations; small boutique hotels being forced to close following the hotel-compliance amnesty expiring; the effect of the alcohol ban in restaurants; and the ongoing problems faced by Patong entertainment venue operators.
Dr Kusak explained that the new infections across the island were people living in Phuket, and that officers were finding about 200 new cases every day.
“About 85% of the people infected do not have any symptoms,” he said.
“For the Phuket Sandbox, we have had over 29,600 arrivals through the scheme, and 88 of those arrivals have been confirmed infected after arriving on the island, which is considered very low, so I want to reduce the number of tests for Sandbox arrivals from three to only two times,” Dr Kusak said.
Currently Sandbox arrivals are tested on arrival at Phuket airport, and again on Day 6/7 of their stay, and a third time on Day 12/13 of their stay.
According to the latest ‘Phuket Sandbox Daily Report’ issued by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) this morning (Sept 10), so far 29,921 people have landed in Phuket under the Sandbox scheme.
Of those, 32 tested positive for COVID-19 on landing, while 27 tested positive during their second test, and six tested positive during their third test. A further 24 Sandbox arrivals are still waiting for confirmation of test results, the report said.
“Additionally, I also want responsible officers to adjust the method of counting high-risk arrivals on the plane because they must go into a quarantine venue, instead of traveling,” Dr Kusak said.
“Their insurance policies do not cover their quarantine and other expenses for being considered high-risk people [and not confirmed as infected with COVID-19],” he added.
At the meeting, small hotel operators explained how they are now unable to welcome Sandbox arrivals following the amnesty allowing small hotels - mainly guesthouses - to continue operating without complying with the Hotel Act expiring on Aug 18.
Further, being unable to open but still considered viable businesses allowed to trade meant they were not allowed to access any of the relief funds provided by the national government to other businesses forced to close due to COVID prevention measures.
The operators asked again for relevant officials to extend to hotel amnesty for more than three years. The Phuket Boutique Accommodation Consortium (BAC) had submitted a formal request on Aug 18 asking for the amnesty to be extended. No formal response has been received.
Phuket business figures also asked the national government to lift the ban on alcohol being sold or consumed in restaurants, and asked for entertainment venues to be allowed to open.
The visiting top-level advisors explained that the issues and details presented will be presented to Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong, so he could present them to the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the national-level committees currently drafting and deciding policy regarding COVID-19 prevention measures.