Dr Kusak’s statement of confidence comes ahead of Chinese tourists being allowed to enter Thailand starting tomorrow (Jan 8). More than 300,000 Chinese tourists are expected to visit Thailand in the first three months of this year.
In response to the anticipated arrival of visitors who may be carrying COVID-19, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who also serves as Public Health Minister, announced on Thursday (Jan 5) that international arrivals from any country ‒ not just China ‒ must show proof of at least two COVID-19 vaccinations in order to be allowed entry to Thailand.
Tourists who must present a negative RT-PCR test in order to return home ‒ a key for Chinese and now Indian nationals ‒ also must provide proof of insurance, Anutin said. This will ensure that they can meet the costs of their treatment if their test in Thailand is positive, he explained.
New measures are necessary because Thailand is a major destination for travellers from many countries including China but the measures must be non-discriminatory, Anutin assured.
“The principle is there will not be any discrimination against a particular country because COVID-19 is spreading in all countries and the strains are similar. So, COVID-19 should not be an issue of discriminating against any country,” he said.
PPHO Chief Dr Kusak said yesterday, “The medical sector [in Phuket] is ready to receive foreigners who will come into the country, not only Chinese tourists, because we already have experience in this.
“In addition, more than 90% of Phuket people have had their first and second doses of vaccine, 69% have had a third dose, and 40% have had a fourth dose, while three to five people being admitted to hospital for COVID-19 per day is considered very little,” he added.
“Therefore, we are ready to accommodate if there are more patients, in terms of patient beds, pharmaceuticals and personnel… And the issue of the COVID strain is not a concern because it is the same strain that we have previously had spread [throughout Thailand].
“Therefore, I would like everyone to mainly follow the news from the government,” Dr Kusak concluded, urging people to not heed any independent reports.
Dr Kusak noted that people in Phuket were already ‒ or still ‒ practicing the government’s DMHTT policy to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“It is currently found that Phuket people are already taking action, especially wearing a hygienic mask,” he said.
The ‘DMHTT’ stands for: D – Social Distancing, M – Mask wearing, H – Hand washing, T – Temperature checking, and T – Thai Chana app (which was scrapped in October last year).
Despite his assurance that Phuket is ready to cope with a resurgence of COVID infections, Dr Kusak urged people at risk of developing serious infections ‒ long called called ‘Group 608’ ‒ to present themselves to have their thrid or even fourth COVID vaccination jab.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘Group 608’ became Phuket officials’ preferred term for higher at-risk patients, comprising people over 60 years old along with those suffering from any of the seven recognised medical conditions, plus women more than 12 weeks pregnant.
“We also ask for cooperation from tour operators who are accepting new employees. We would like them to check the new employees vaccination status as well. If they have not had a booster injection, they can get the injection at any government hospital,” Dr Kusak said.