Yet all that can change with just one announcement.
Many reports online have guessed that at least some of the restrictions will be lifted on April 30. They may be right, but so far there has not been a shred of evidence to support that claim.
Much of this prediction seems to be pinned on the deadlines mentioned above. Also, when Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana extended all the initial health orders to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, he did so with all the orders marked to expire on April 30. In those last orders, he did not included the previously used standard rider “unless otherwise needed”. That was just 10 days ago.
Yet in announcing the April 30 deadline, even the TAT hedged their bets. “The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) would like to inform international and domestic tourists that the end date on 30 April, 2020, has been specified in the last order issued by Phuket province,” the TAT said in its formal announcement.
However, that sentence was immediately followed by, “Despite the end date stated on 30 April, 2020, this TAT update does not imply that Phuket will lift its unprecedented Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) control measures thereafter. TAT will constantly monitor the situation and provide more updates as soon as new information becomes available.”
And there has been no update since. All questions to the Governor’s Office and Provincial Hall about April 30 have been answered with appeals for calm, and the patience and to wait until an official announcement is made. The answers have come from the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department. Governor Phakaphong, who issued the orders, has not made any public comment to clarify what will happen come the end of next week.
Meanwhile, nearly all forms of industry on the island have ground to a halt. Phuket so far has been even been blanked by airlines relaunching domestic flights on May 1. No one can blame them. Without any hint from officials whether or not the tambon lockdown will be lifted, any visitors who land at the airport will not be allowed to travel to anywhere else on the island.
While this cloud of lack of clarity emanates from our leading officials, many teams of people across the island are doing their best to provide free food to people who already do not have enough to eat.
Local municipalities have been working hard to hand out the government emergency food supplies, but their efforts have fallen short, plainly evidenced by the huge charity drive by non-government efforts, which The Phuket News wholeheartedly supports.
To be clear, there is no win scenario for the central government in this. If the huge number of people turning up to claim free food each day are already in urgent need of food, the central government’s emergency supply system has failed them.
If cynics would like to accuse these people of just hoarding, then either way the government has failed them – if hoarding the emergency food is so these people can sell it on, that would be a black market that the government has created; and if the people are hoarding this food because they intend to eat it themselves later, if they are that poor they should have it.
If comments online and the ongoing poll by The Phuket News are any guide, most people are expecting only a partial lifting of the lockdown restrictions. If the government feels the need to keep key restrictions in place to help prevent the spread of the virus, they seem to have public opinion on their side.
Yet, what started out as a health decision soon also became an economic decision, and is now political decision. Sooner or later the decision will need to be made how much suffering is enough, for those who exposure to the virus may cause serious suffering, or even death, and for those suffering economic hardship.
It is by no means any easy decision to make. For a country where gambling is illegal, this is a big one – but the decision will have to be made soon.