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Phuket Opinion: Holding on to COVID

PHUKET: All the arguments for relaxing the entry requirements for tourists have been laid out repeatedly to the point that the everyday news reader should be able to cite them verbatim, and yet the central government is still holding on to outdated COVID-19 restrictions on the pretense they are still needed.

opinionCOVID-19tourismhealtheconomics
By The Phuket News

Sunday 20 March 2022, 09:00AM


The TAT announcement yesterday that tourists will have to wait until April 1 to enter Thailand without a pre-departure COVID test. Tourists will still be tested on landing. Image: TAT

The TAT announcement yesterday that tourists will have to wait until April 1 to enter Thailand without a pre-departure COVID test. Tourists will still be tested on landing. Image: TAT

For some reason the CCSA, the ruling national COVID authority, is maintaining its “black or white” thinking, as if the consequences of easing COVID restrictions is an “all or nothing” decision – but then on Friday rolled out yet more piecemeal “relaxations” of the entry requirements for tourists.

This same past week, the CCSA also mandated that we still need the majority of restrictions in place to prevent the spread of Omicron, yet people will be allowed to travel nationwide to celebrate Songkran, carrying with them whatever infections they have back to their family home in the provinces.

The “relaxed” measures for tourists themselves do not make sense. Dropping the COVID test within 72 hours of departing for Thailand, but maintaining the tests on arrival is sheer stupidity. If anything, keep the pre-departure test to save the tourist the pain and expense of being yet another guest at a Thai “hospitel”, which have now been made famous for their quality of service.

Keeping the test on landing without the pre-departure test just smacks of entrapment, especially considering the number of tourists who tested positive on Day 5 of their stay in Phuket since the “reopening of tourism” on Nov 1.

Holding on to the Thailand Pass system now is just pathetic. As the Sandbox pilot project has proved, once the tourist is in, they’re in. Any entry requirements at this stage should be folded into the visa entry requirements. Period.

Holding on to any COVID entry requirements anymore makes no sense, not out of opinion, but out of the statistics issued by health officials themselves and from the repeated statements by Phuket officials that more than 90% of all local infections in past weeks have all been ‘Green’ patients, experiencing little to no signs of infection at all.

The Chief of the Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO), Dr Kusak Kukiattikoon, himself this past week pointed out that the rate of local infections in Phuket has already peaked and are now solidly trending downwards.

Claiming that the entry requirements are still needed to protect those at risk of serious consequences of infection, the so-called “Group 608’ patients, namely the elderly and those already suffering serious medical conditions, would be officials shooting themselves in the foot – again.

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As Dr Kusak said this week: “Of this group [the elderly], 96% have not received a third-dose booster shot… Of those, more than 70% have not received any vaccination injections at all.” That very statement itself is an indictment against the whole mass vaccination campaign. This group were supposed to be the first to be vaccinated because these are the people we were supposed to be protecting by getting ourselves vaccinated.

No government official has admitted why the higher at-risk people were not vaccinated with the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine in the big push last year, and they have not admitted that the vaccine was pointless. Yet, here they are continuing their push for third- and fourth-dose booster vaccinations with different, more effective, vaccines, and Omicron has still saturated the island, as Phuket provincial and health officials have already admitted. The saturation has reached the point that the Aunjai Clinic is now winding down. From tomorrow through Mar 27 the clinic will be open from 8:30am to 4:30pm only (regular government office hours).

Dr Kusak on Wednesday also pointed out that currently 92.88% of the 539,183 target population of Phuket had received at least one COVID-19 vaccination injection, while 87.48% of the target population had received a second jab. So far 67.92% of the target population had received a third-dose “booster” injection, he said.

In keeping with the self-contradictory thinking, Dr Kusak and other leading provincial officials have repeatedly praised the mass vaccination campaign for the low impact Omicron has had in Phuket, not the COVID entry restrictions, yet this same level of vaccination across the island is not enough to allow tourists to just return.

The final nail in the coffin for contradicting themselves is that the Phuket Sandbox model was good enough to open in the middle of the Delta variant outbreak, but for some reason Phuket has not been even mentioned as a possible Sandbox for allowing tourists to return without entry restrictions as a pilot project of its own.

If the above are the true real effects of the Omicron variant and Phuket as a Sandbox has been successful, then there is no reason why the island cannot be reopened without entry restrictions.

As everyone saw throughout the height of the pandemic last year, the CCSA through provincial officials can easily introduce tighter restrictions just hours before they come into effect. There is no reason why restrictions cannot be eased just as quickly. They are playing a delaying game, and they are not telling people why.

Right now we have to wait until April 1 for the latest “relaxed” measures announced last Friday to come into effect. They will be even more out of date by then. No joke.

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Kurt | 23 March 2022 - 11:50:50

In this matter less the Governor to blame.  It is a matter for Prayut, as pm, Anutin ( Minister of health) and CCSA. They all must start to to understand that a traveler starts the travel in home country. Prior travel PCR test is essential. That is the first cofferdam to tackle Covid infections.

agogohome | 23 March 2022 - 10:47:16

Couldn't have written the article ay better myself. Well done! Time for a new Governor?

CaptainJack69 | 20 March 2022 - 12:10:13

Yep, Thai bureaucracy at it's normal snail-like convoluted level. In retrospect it's amazing they were able to beat most of the world with the 'sandbox' program. Now we see their normal change averse mindset. Most countries only require proof of vaccination, sometimes with a test on arrival but never with any kind of quarantine.

Kurt | 20 March 2022 - 12:03:31

---If positive, the tourist got it here locally. Are they tracing the Thai people who were in touch with the tourist and infected him during days 2-3-4-5?   Correction: NOT pre-flight testing is madness.

Kurt | 20 March 2022 - 11:59:16

This Opinion piece makes so much sense., with normal thinking/analyse about Covid requirements. Why can Thai officials not think?
Skipping PCR test prior traveling to Thailand is so stupid ( I wrote that already on 18/3). European countries relax Covid rules, but now Covid figures their are spiking. So, pre-flight PCR testing is madness. The 5th day test is funny. If positive the tourist got it h

maverick | 20 March 2022 - 10:19:37

Yep can’t argue with any of this, good article. What’s coming out of CCSA is so typical of this part of the world, a lack of leadership and sensible debate and engagement - total lack of leadership and consensus management - you will never get a committee size of CCSA to agree on everything vested interests play a part as well.

Graz | 20 March 2022 - 09:59:10

Might as well call it Test & Go Get Covid at this point.

Omicron is raging & you're as likely to get it here as anywhere in the world.

Nationwide positive PCRs + ATKs have been in the 40-60k plus range for a couple of weeks now...wouldn't be a stretch to assume actuals at 5x or even 10x those figures.

So why require folks to test at all before or after entering? It's s...

 

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