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Phuket Opinion: Omicron will come

PHUKET: Phuket officials this week did well in tracking down tourist arrivals from South Africa in their hunt for the Omicron variant of COVID-19, but need to improve their response time to be truly effective in preventing any highly transmissible virus from making its way onto the island.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 5 December 2021, 10:00AM

Tourists mass at Phuket Airport durnig a busy period. Photo: TAC Phuket

Tourists mass at Phuket Airport durnig a busy period. Photo: TAC Phuket

All the explanations came on Thursday (Dec 2), one day after arrivals from eight African nations were banned from entering the country. By that time 17 of the 50-plus arrivals still staying in Phuket had been located. Just one day later, all but one had been located. That is good, quick work.

However, Phuket Public Health Office Chief Kusak Kukiattikoon himself on Thursday, while telling the public to not panic, that arrivals from the eight countries had been banned from entering Phuket since Nov 27, four days earlier. Why no action was taken in those four days remains to be explained.

Thailand, and Phuket in particular, has long been in the international spotlight for its policies to restart tourism while trying to keep it residents safe from imported infections. As noted by diplomatic representatives in the country, foreign governments having been watching with a keen eye since the launch of the Phuket Sandbox model.

Other than unsustainable outright long-term quarantine, without the scientific development of quick, accurate, relatively cheap tests it is difficult to foresee any way of reopening international borders to travel without risk. It is now openly understood that being vaccinated helps to prevent infections from becoming serious and helps massively to reduce the incidence of spread of infection, but the person still must be infected for the vaccine to work.

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At this stage it would be fair to say that very few countries have done any better than Thailand. Many countries also dependent on tourism have fully reopened their borders only to shut them down fully again. Thailand is trying to avoid that.

This is not to say the policies in place are ideal, and any policies, even at either extreme of a full reopening or another shutdown, will leave some people unhappy. So far, there is no win-win in fighting COVID, and it has long been the case that the solution is political. Finding the right balance most people support as acceptable is the only answer anyone can try to find right now.

Omicron will come. At last count the variant had been identified in at least 38 countries, most of those in the past week alone. Phuket will not be any different.

Ramping up response times in tracking down and testing potential new variant carriers must be improved for people in Phuket, tourists and residents alike, to have any sense of safety through precaution – and Phuket as a safe haven from widespread COVID outbreak is one of its biggest selling points right now.

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maverick | 06 December 2021 - 14:21:13

Christy @ I trust you have evidence to support your mask theory - most of the studies I have seen are inconclusive or suggest otherwise - I am happy to wear as people do not carry handkerchiefs any more and I don’t want flu either 

christysweet | 06 December 2021 - 10:15:29

I recall Thailand did an excellent job the first year until Prattles decided "The People need Songkran" and encouraged inter provincial travel. There were some Hi-So events also in Bangkok and Phuket that were super-spreaders. 

christysweet | 06 December 2021 - 10:09:45

 Two people wearing sufficient masks reduces the chance of transmission from  50 %  to almost nothing. Covid can cause long term health deterioration. #StopSelfishSimpians 

JohnC | 06 December 2021 - 10:09:26

Have to agree. I am fed up with the amount of pale foreigners (new tourists) I see daily flaunting the mask wearing laws. Either they were not made aware or are too stupid or arrogant to care about their bad behaviour. Great idea to let in selfish tourists who don't give a s**t about the people who actually live here.

maverick | 06 December 2021 - 09:31:10

Kurt@ nut vaccinated people are protected from the virus certainly from getting seriously ill unless you have evidence to the contrary - over 1.1 billion examples in China - that said govt behavior in controlling public health is a disgrace globally 

Timothy | 06 December 2021 - 09:17:26

maverick you are a very good example of those you speak. So it's okay for unmasked people to walk around in a supermarket, potentially spreading the virus? Why do you think a doctor wears a mask during surgery?  I too see tourist shopping without masks. The store employees do not enforce the mask rules. Queue 'dumb and dumber' to come to your defence. 

Kurt | 06 December 2021 - 08:35:52

Also vaccinated people should feel uncomfortable with no social distance and not wearing face mask people around them. It is well known that vaccinated people can catch Covid, although not in a life threatening way. Just become a green or yellow patient. ( to speak in thai terms)

maverick | 06 December 2021 - 06:32:45

If one is vaccinated wearing a mask and observing hygiene protocols incl washing hands why should they be worried about unmasked people? Or is it just a whinge.There will always be idiots out there some even come on this forum

maverick | 06 December 2021 - 06:30:24

Thailand did an excellent job of keeping the virus at bay until leaky borders with Myanmar and Cambodia allowed it in - made trashing the tourist industry a wasted effort

Kurt | 06 December 2021 - 00:13:16

The biggest mistake of Thai Government was to vaccinate with chinese sugar water vaccines. Now the 'booster' ( 3rd vaccination) should just be seen as a 1st real vaccination. Minister Aunutin for himself has fixed that already with a 3rd and 4th ,not chinese, real vaccination.

christysweet | 05 December 2021 - 19:17:12

Large grocery retailers need to make sure patrons are complying with mask mandates, too many foreigners  sauntering about flouting this rule. I have to shop for groceries and am being exposed by their selfish  carelessness.  

JSombra | 05 December 2021 - 16:54:07

The "safe haven" has not been a selling point for either Phuket or Thailand for long time, if ever, that ship sailed on last covid wave more than half a year ago. 

Its time people stop pretending it is relevant or even helpful, especially to a group (people willing to travel in these times) who are generally not that worried about covid in  the first place, otherwise they would be sta...

LaughingOutLoud | 05 December 2021 - 14:19:31

What a load of crap.  To say Thailand did much better than most countries??  There was a 2 MONTH DELAY in vaccination roll out.  And the one person directly responsible is above the law here in Thailand.  As far as we foreign residents are concerned it's been a disaster!  Look at Covid numbers pre April and post April, when we were told we'd have to wait for vaccines

tamvong | 05 December 2021 - 13:01:27

It's almost certainly here already, they just haven't found it yet.

Kurt | 05 December 2021 - 12:44:24

Guess it is more realistic to presume that Omicron variant is already on Phuket. Omicron was already in Europe before Africa was ringing the bell about it. Some scientists outsice Thailand are thinking that Omicron can be a help to make previous variants weaker. Sounds hopeful as Omicron itselves is a weak virus.

lelecuneo | 05 December 2021 - 12:08:56

will ocme but if we dont test then will not come for sure...haha


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