Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong announced the move to reconsider lifting the rapid antigen test requirement during a live broadcast interview from the Phuket Check Point at Tha Chatchai yesterday (May 6).
As of Apr 22, all people arriving from ‘red zone’ provinces have been required to prove they are fully vaccinated or had tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of arriving.
If the arrival could not prove either, the arrival would be required to undergo a rapid antigen test as an initial step to determine whether or not they were infected.
The test is free for Thai nationals, but foreigners must pay B500 per rapid antigen test.
The cost of the test was initially B300 per person when it was announced that the requirement would apply to all people.
However, the cost was increased to B500 per test when it was decided to apply the cost of the test to foreigners only.
The decision to charge only foreigners for the test came after the National Health Security Office (NHSO) provided a budget of B40 million to Phuket in order to conduct the rapid antigen tests.
The move to reconsider whether or not to require rapid antigen tests at all follows Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew on Wednesday (May 5) announcing that the rapid antigen test will not be free for Thais from May 15.
Vice Governor Piyapong yesterday explained, “I want to explain that the National Health Security Office [NHSO] was willing to pay for the cost of the rapid test for us up until May 15. As we do not have the budget to support paying for the test, if we still have to test arrivals [after May 15], we need to ask them to pay for it,”
“Meanwhile, from now until May 15, we are considering whether we will further conduct the rapid test or not because we have not found any person testing positive for many days, and the number of people found positive from the test is very low,” he said.
At last report, from Apr 22 through to Wednesday (May 5), a total of 40,240 people have been tested on arrival at the airport and at the checkpoint leading onto the island by road.
Of the 40,240 arrivals tested, the tests identified 22 people as positive for COVID-19.
However, further tests confirmed that only 17 of the 22 were actually infected, the remaining five were ‘false positives’.
“We still have a number of new infected cases in Phuket every day, but the number is from people inside our community on the island. Currently, most of the infected cases were found after they gathered for gambling,” V/Gov Piyapong said.
“To be clear, until May 15, we will still test arrivals with the rapid antigen test, but after that we have not concluded whether we will continue testing or not. if we decide to keep testing, the NHSO has already sent us a good sign to continue paying for the cost of conducting the tests,” he added.
“I know my explanation contradicts the news from the governor on Wednesday, but on that day, we had not yet received the good sign [sic] from the NHSO,” he noted.
“The information can change all the time. There are things that are beyond our authority. Please follow our announcements,” V/Gov Piyapong urged.