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Phuket Opinion: Ripping off the band-aid

PHUKET: Over the past month and and half all the “lockdown” restrictions laid down by national and provincial orders have pointed to an April 30 deadline. The Emergency Decree is set to expire on April 30, the ban on all inbound international passenger flights is set to expire on April 30, domestic flights can take to the skies again after April 30, and the “tambon lockdown” in Phuket is set to expire on April 30.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 26 April 2020, 09:00AM

A woman carries her child after collecting a government  emergency food handout in Patong. Photo: Patong Municipality

A woman carries her child after collecting a government emergency food handout in Patong. Photo: Patong Municipality

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.

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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.

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Rorri_2 | 29 April 2020 - 07:33:26

GerryT81, if you don't agree with Kurt, why not tell us why

GerryT81 | 28 April 2020 - 13:15:06

"Listen to the scientists,not listen to politicians"  Yeah,right Kurt. Or even better,listen to all those experts on here with their profound knowledge of the virus. 

Kurt | 28 April 2020 - 11:38:52

Hi Island Man, in general, scientists say they still know to little about Covid19. The worldwide re-infection of recovered patients is still not fully understood. World leading virologists are still busy figuring out matters while in many labs they are 'racing' ( thai expression) to develop a vaccine. Normally it takes years to develop a vaccine.

Island Man | 28 April 2020 - 08:05:10

Kurt, I too thought lock down until this thing goes away was best but.... 
if you haven't read the article by Dr. Katz I strongly suggest you do. There is NO political motivation in his suggestion only logic.

Christy Sweet | 27 April 2020 - 22:16:40

I live two miles from a SARS outbreak and so fervently wish everyone in that community be kept in their houses, not running checkpoints or sneaking through the Laguna border hedge near Pig Town to points north and west. Presumably to the south as well.   The security is inadequate.  10 weeks house lock down  is the only way..  

Pascale | 27 April 2020 - 19:32:12

@Rorri   Oooops ! You are right,for once !

nbarcroftr | 27 April 2020 - 15:13:09

Another month! If only I’d waited 5 more minutes.

Rorri_2 | 27 April 2020 - 15:08:01

Pascale, mate, you are going to feel foolish.. check further down 26 April 2020 - 13:37:27, if you can't read, best you do not reply, for fear of being made out to be soooo stupid.

nbarcroftr | 27 April 2020 - 12:53:44

I predict that the lockdown (and alcohol ban) gets extended another 14 days. Phuket has been color coded as a ‘red’ state. It doesn’t matter what any of us think. 

maverick | 27 April 2020 - 12:01:19

How do people recover from the virus without developing immunity it’s a contradiction in terms - and WHO has managed to confuse the issue yet again - the question as stated by scientists is not whether some immunity is acquired but for how long and degree of immunity which is possibly linked to severity of initial attack 

Christy Sweet | 27 April 2020 - 11:37:58

I listened to a Dr Katz interview just yesterday, he's seems to be counting on immunity, so far there is no evidence it exists. The spikes have to be managed. Mitigation is working is why the death count is so low.  

LALALA | 27 April 2020 - 10:49:12

Totally agree with Island man... the only problem is that the Pharma industry is lobbying the WHO and they have no interest to reach any kind of heard immunity as in this case there is no or much less need for a vaccine and they can not sell it.

Kurt | 27 April 2020 - 10:30:00

Island Man, that immunity theory is already obsolete.
People recovered from Covid19, not have any body immunity. The waiting is really about a vaccine. Until than the world has to live with Covid19 infection and re-infections. Scientists  expect in November another strong Covid19 wave.
Listen to the scientists, not listen to politicians!

Pascale | 27 April 2020 - 10:17:00

@Rorri    There is no comment from HubertK on this article.  Your comment doesn't make sense, so best not reply !

Kurt | 27 April 2020 - 10:08:07

DeK, diabetes/high blood pressure is not life threatening/contaminating other people who can die of the drops/aerosolen from other people through the air. Personal life styles, not affecting other people can not be compared with Covid19 contamination as the worldwide Pandemic proves.

Sandbar | 27 April 2020 - 08:10:56

I speak on behalf of all mankind. I need a hair cut and a cold beer to have with my pork chop dinner! 

Rorri_2 | 27 April 2020 - 08:01:17

HubertK, I think you don't understand what Kurt means, so best not reply.

Island Man | 27 April 2020 - 07:53:45

…but the economy would recover, we would achieve “heard immunity” faster than waiting for a vaccine. Dr. David L. Katz wrote and op-ed the New York Times entitled, “Is Our Fight Against Coronavirus Worse Than the Disease?” It’s worth a read.

Island Man | 27 April 2020 - 07:43:00

There are pro’s and con’s for both lifting restrictions and maintaining the status quo. Continuing the status quo while waiting for a vaccine to be developed will come at great human and financial cost. On the other hand opening the economy and dropping restrictions would surly cause a spike in infections,… 

DeKaaskopp | 26 April 2020 - 23:43:06

@ThorFinger  Not every smoker has damaged lungs ! Apart from that would take away cigarettes from them now not lower the risk of catching the virus! Alcohol may lead to diabetes and high blood pressure.Both makes you more vulnerable when catching the virus.Same as a damaged liver.Both are bad, but I don't care.So what is your lecture about ?

ThorFinger | 26 April 2020 - 21:34:35

In Patong the virus has had long enough to have died already. We need to cautiously reopen industry and have a task force ready to immediately tackle outbreaks. 
Reopen beaches but practise a safe distance where there are crowds. 

ThorFinger | 26 April 2020 - 21:30:24

Dekaaskop, coronavirus is a respiratory illness and people most  at risk are those who've have their lungs affected prior to getting the virus. 
Cigarette smokers have already severely damaged their lungs and their chances of dying if they get the illness are far far higher than non smokers.  Alcohol on the other hand lowers the bodies response to infection. 

Pu Li | 26 April 2020 - 17:55:42

Leave it to Governor Phakaphong. He will do the right thing.

BigA | 26 April 2020 - 17:04:38

For once Kurt is right,at least we can have a drink or two and go to sleep !

GerryT81 | 26 April 2020 - 14:58:56

@Christy   Not everyone can/wants  to live on donations. Time to lift the lockdown at least partially. 


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