Any people wanting to leave the island by road must wait until at least Sunday (May 3), Phuket Provincial Police Chief Maj Gen Rungrote Thakurapunyasiri said this afternoon.
Officers stopped allowing people to cross the bridge at 2pm. It was not made clear who gave the order to shut down the state-organised exodus.
More than 40,000 people have registered to leave Phuket through a campaign that started as a “survey” for officials to gauge how many people wanted to leave Phuket in order to return to their home provinces and devise a plan to make that possible.
Phuket Vice Governor Supoj Rotreuang Na Nongkhai explained yesterday that any people wanting to leave the island must first obtain written permission from the village chief (Phu Yai Baan) or Subdistrict Chief (Kamnan) for the area where they are are staying in Phuket.
Alternatively, people could register through an online form.
The idea was to allow 2,500 people to leave the island in the morning, and another 2,500 people between midday and 8pm, V/Gov Supoj explained.
Instead, officers at the checkpoint found themselves overwhelmed since before dawn this morning as traffic backed up for kilometres as people arrived early to make sure they would be able to cross the bridge during their “window”.
Maj Gen Rungrote this afternoon said the decision to close the bridge off-island came after the Phuket Governor had discussed the issue with health officials.
The way the process was being conducted today was “not orderly”, he said.
Maj Gen Rungrote did not comment on whether or not the people arriving at the checkpoint had booked their place to leave by using the “QueQ” app, as they were instructed.
People wanting to leave the island will now have to wait until at least Sunday before the bridge to the mainland is re-opened, he said.
The decision spurred much disappointment among those looking forward to going home, as many of them no longer have work in Phuket, and hence no form of income to support themselves while on the island.