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Phuket Opinion: Raising the drawbridge

PHUKET: The move by the Phuket Governor to restrict all entry to Phuket to essential arrivals only from starting this Tuesday (Aug 3) is one of the best decisions the provincial government has made so far during the ever-ongoing ‘Third Wave’ outbreak of COVID-19 infections. The only problem is that it could have been done sooner.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 1 August 2021, 09:00AM

At this stage preventing more infections arriving from the mainland is a good idea. Photo: PR Phuket

At this stage preventing more infections arriving from the mainland is a good idea. Photo: PR Phuket

The idea of shutting down the island if infections started to soar on the mainland was floated as far back as last year when local business leaders were drafting plans to reopen the island to tourists. However, the idea back then was too soon for Phuket, too soon to be accepted by Bangkok, and too soon for the rest of the world, and locally even received a lot of harsh criticism. Today, the idea is much welcomed.

The imminent threat of infections skyrocketing across Phuket comes from the mainland, not from Sandbox arrivals, as Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew rightly pointed out on Friday – but that was obvious two weeks ago. In the coming two weeks we will see just how well Phuket health officials can actually contain the spread of infections already on the island.

In real terms Phuket can ill afford to lose what gains have been made by the Sandbox scheme, much more than just a loss of face of another failed scheme. Accommodation bookings by travellers looking to arrive under the Sandbox requirements are already slowing down, and the number of arrivals for July hit 26% short of the lofty goal of 18,000 touted for July.

Internal - Phuket News TV

Meanwhile, national tourism figures have openly admitted that Thai domestic tourists were expected to play a major part in restarting Phuket’s tourism industry, with 548,000 “person-visits” expected during the third quarter, generating an approximately B5.51bn in revenue for the economy – but those people aren’t coming yet, not because of the number of infections in Phuket but because of infections in their own provinces and the nationwide restrictions on inter-provincial travel.

Of note, Deputy Prime Minister Jurin Laksanawisit, who also serves as the Minister of Commerce, was told at a meeting during his visit to Phuket in March that the average income in Phuket had plunged to B1,900 a month. Mr Jurin has not returned to Phuket since, and the only boost to the island’s economy in the months since then has been the launch of the Phuket Sandbox scheme.

At this stage Phuket has very little to lose by isolating itself from all but essential arrivals from the mainland, and the Delta variant spreading rife in more than a dozen provinces has proved difficult to contain, just like elsewhere in the world. The ‘Third Wave’ has finally reached Phuket. How well we deal with it is up to us.

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JohnC | 02 August 2021 - 08:55:46

Absolutely right grasshopper. Outside of Bangkok and Phuket the vaccine roll out programme is very poor indeed. My wife is up north visiting family and no one up there knows anything about when or even if they will ever get offered the same. Asking government officials and hospitals produces the same result. "Mai Rue".

Kurt | 01 August 2021 - 13:04:09

Well the Covid Delta variant has been imported already in Thailand, so about that no more need to worry by Phuket Officials ( 'not our fault')'. Long live the 'Sandbox'.  But to get more Delta contagious persons over land on Phuket is a 'bridge to far'. But hey, look at long list of bridge crossing exemptions, that are the travel high risk Delta virus spreaders.

Grasshopper | 01 August 2021 - 09:51:33

It is not only national infection rates that are going to impact domestic tourist numbers for Phuket, but more importantly the poor roll out nationally of vaccine doses.   For the foreseeable future, vaccination proof is going to be required not only for Phuket, but for most forms of travel within Thailand.


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