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Phuket Opinion: Has the countdown to reopening already started?

Phuket Opinion: Has the countdown to reopening already started?

PHUKET: If the speed of the quick-fire announcements over the past few days of the government “considering” easing the requirements for tourists to enter the country is any indication, anyone dependent on tourism for income might have good reason to be optimistic about the near future. The only thing our national leaders have to figure out is how fast they can roll back the entry measures without looking stupid for keeping them in effect so long already.

opinionCOVID-19Coronavirustourism
By The Phuket News

Sunday 20 February 2022, 09:00AM


Tourism Minister Phiphat (left) and Deputy PM and Health Minister Anutin. Photos: via Bangkok Post

Tourism Minister Phiphat (left) and Deputy PM and Health Minister Anutin. Photos: via Bangkok Post

Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has already gone public to distance himself from the current measures, saying that he and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) will be calling for easing at least one measure as quickly as the current bureaucracy can handle, likely two weeks.

Mr Phiphat on Friday said that the his ministry and the TAT will propose that the second mandatory RT-PCR test be rolled back to an antigen test kit, as it was before the current regime of entry requirements were brought into effect to counter the Omicron variant being brought into the country, at a time when the generally mild severity of Omicron infections was already widely reported in other countries, namely the UK.

The request will be made at the next CCSA meeting on Wednesday (Feb 23). If approved, the new rule will be applied from next month, Mr Phiphat said.

“The plan to eliminate all RT-PCR testing upon arrival will be made once the country officially declares COVID-19 an endemic disease,” he added.

Meanwhile, much-loved Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has been doing what he does best, by continuing to tell everyone that they “need to learn to live with COVID-19” and that restrictions needed to stay in effect, while saying that restrictions may be eased soon – a slight contradiction, to say the least.

“After the Omicron infections reach their peak and case numbers drop, with more international travellers [unexplained where from], Thailand will devise measures to suit the changing global situation. We will find a balance between public health safety and pursuing economic recovery,” he told a Bangkok Post economic forum on Thursday.

What both Mr Phiphat and Mr Anutin have in common is that their declarations of intent have come hot on the heels of leading tourism figures in the country pointing out that the current entry requirements for tourists are already outdated.

The open letter sent this week to PM Prayut, and of course copied to Deputy PM Anutin, plainly pointed out that the current entry requirements are not even supported by the government’s own data on the number and severity of infections.

Internal - Phuket Live Radio 89.5

Tourists are more likely to contract Omicron after landing in Thailand, and even then the severity of infection is expected to be low. All international arrivals who have tested positive on Day 5 of their stay have been ‘Green’ patients, said the letter, initiated by Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi, President of the Thai Hotels Association.

Ms Marisa is not alone with her understanding of the situation. The letter was signed by Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, President of the Phuket Tourist Association; Thanet Tantipiriyakit Chairman of the Phuket Tourism Council; and Kongsak Khoopongsakorn, President of the Thai Hotels Association Southern Chapter, based in Phuket. Bill Heinecke of the Minor Group has openly given the same opinion of the current situation.

The CCSA has been caught out. Either they are lying about their own figures, or they are ignoring their own figures. The sick joke is that they will not admit to either.

The recommendations set out by the consortium of tourism leaders, now supported by the Tourism Minister himself, to start easing measures immediately have sounded the alarm for the CCSA.

Ms Marisa’s point that Thailand is already falling behind other competitor tourism destinations in the region is not a prediction or conjecture; it is already happening. Any further delay in easing entry measures only does more harm.

Also as Ms Marisa has pointed pointed out, before COVID-19 when tourists had a choice of when to travel, they came to Thailand in numbers only up until the end of April; that is “the end of the curve”.

If Thailand is to gain any real benefit from easing restrictions – including ditching the Thailand Pass permit, as suggested in the letter to PM Prayut – it will have be soon.

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m.hawes007@gmail.com | 21 February 2022 - 16:10:10

The only tourism is going to get back to normal is scrap the Thailand pass. 
So businesses and revenue gets back into the country.

CaptainJack69 | 20 February 2022 - 12:23:41

Already too late. Even completely free travel wouldn't see any affect now until December.

maverick | 20 February 2022 - 10:46:44

Yip fair comment - playing catch up for sure,  by the time they wake up to their folly most of Phuket will already have caught and survived the virus. It’s currently spreading like wildfire, which of course is good....let it blow itself out

Kurt | 20 February 2022 - 09:57:42

This moment Thailand has a lot against being chosen as tourist destination. Negative factors: Political instability, air polution, use of dangerous pesticides in food chain, tourist cheating/scamming with dual/triple prizing. Transport scamming ( Phuket). Dirty beaches/water ( where are the trash containers?) Corrupt police at look out for tourist cash, stop the tourist, let pass the Thai.

Fascinated | 20 February 2022 - 09:52:29

reopening should be controlled by the Health Ministry, not the tourism Ministry. The problem is the clown at the top, who should stick to feeding off daddy's construction company. One voice is the wAY AHEAD, NOT 6 OR 7 CONTRADICTORY ONES.

Kurt | 20 February 2022 - 09:47:31

The way many Thai suffered lost of income due to Covid-19 happend too in many countries of mr Anutin 'International travelers'. International flying will become much more expensive. Many people start up in new jobs. (Thailand-) Holiday thoughts are at bottom of bucket list. Later this year potential tourists will examen and compare Thailand with other  countries around.

 

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