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Phuket Opinion: Testing the waters

PHUKET: Come July 1 Phuket will become a testbed for international tourism not just for Thailand, but for the whole world – and everyone will learn some home truths about COVID-19 and its variants, and how effective baseline vaccination really is.

Sunday 6 June 2021, 09:00AM


People enjoy the water at Patong Beach. Photo: Patong Surf Life Saving

People enjoy the water at Patong Beach. Photo: Patong Surf Life Saving

Phuket is about to be able to prove firsthand just how effective vaccinations are at preventing transmissions by vaccinated people, just how effective testing is, and just how seriously people will suffer if they become infected after being vaccinated with Sinovac, which according to even the World Health Organization is the worst vaccine in the world at preventing infections, though much better at preventing serious illness and has a very high rate of preventing death.

Looking to the Maldives and Seychelles, both of which Phuket officials have previously held high as examples to follow, both island tourism nations suffered skyrocketing rates of new infections only last month despite being among the highest ranking countries in the world for mass vaccination of their populations at the time.

Both countries used Sinopharm and AstraZeneca for their mass vaccination campaigns.

At the height of the outbreak in the Seychelles, where at the time 57% of the population had been fully vaccinated with Sinopharm – again, which has a better track record of preventing infections than Sinovac – of 2,486 people recorded as infected on one day, 37% had received two doses of vaccine.

In the Maldives, late last month infections surged despite 42% of the population having received two doses of vaccine.

Those examples together do not bode well for Phuket.

That said, infection rates in both countries have already fallen dramatically, and the spike in the number of deaths, while most respectfully not token, was certainly shortlived.

Also on the plus side, it was reported the tourism areas in the Maldives were largely unaffected, though that was mostly attributed yo 97% of hotel and resort staffers having received their first vaccine dose and 56% being fully vaccinated.

Thai Residential

As for the testing, it was reported that of all tourism arrivals to the Maldives at the time less than 0.2% tested positive.

Tourism workers in Phuket are obviously on the frontline when it comes to international tourists arriving on the island, and they were amongst the first to start receiving vaccinations after medical workers and other emergency staff, but Phuket officials have not delivered any industry-segment breakdowns when reporting the ongoing mass vaccination campaign on the island. Now might be a good time to do so.

Among the other ominous silences from officials, while all the trumpeting of vaccinations continues the gaping chasm remains in the so-called vaccination policy as to why people in the highest risk age ranges are still unable to choose to be vaccinated at a private medical facility with a vaccine of their choice – paid for out of their own pocket – using a vaccine that has now long been approved by Thai Food & Drug Administration.

Not one person in any official capacity has even recognised this debacle. The situation is so appalling that even Bhummikitti Raktaengam, Phuket’s strongest proponent for getting the island vaccinated, seems to have given up the ghost on the idea.

Perhaps it is simply too embarrassing to admit that people over 60 were always the segment of our community that we were supposed to be protecting from infection, well at least that is what state public awareness campaigns kept repeating all last year.

Now the Thai elderly will have the choice of AstraZeneca or AstraZeneca, as Thai officials trust Sinovac that much. Non-working expats, and especially foreign retirees, still have yet to learn what their options are, while the Tourism Authority of Thailand countdown clock marks 24 days to go.

Intentionally withholding these approved vaccines from the people no longer smells like a commercial decision, it stinks of it.

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Kurt | 07 June 2021 - 10:07:10

Thailand has to become careful. If it gets listed 'orange' or 'red', no tourists at all coming as on return a 2 weeks quarantine in own country. See for example now what happened with UK tourists in Portugal. They now must after return in quarantine in UK. Besides, it is summer time in Europe, there is no longing for alcohol free Phuket beaches, bars and restaurants.

Kurt | 07 June 2021 - 09:31:09

Entrepreneurs on Phuket start having doubts about the 01 July 'opening' with present regiimental restrictions on foreign tourists. UAE, quite far in vaccination process, started to give people already 3rd dose of Sinopharm because lack of immunity developing, specially in Bahrain. Herd immunity there is still a dream with the chinese vaccins. Same as on Seychelles.

Christy Sweet | 06 June 2021 - 22:11:07

No mystery, retirees are on fixed budgets therefore completely inconsequential to Thaidom, which counts on  horny foreigners exploiting women's wage inequities   to prop up their underground economies.     

JSombra | 06 June 2021 - 15:26:37

'2,486 people recorded as infected on one day'

That was a whole weeks worth of data, daily they never went above  324 (about 4 days at that range) and since mid May have been in the 100 to 150 ramge per day. Like sourceing from wikipedia is not recommened, same goes for sites like worldometers. Check the Seycheless ministry of health on facebook, they publish the data there weekly.

SEC2 | 06 June 2021 - 13:05:30

An excellent piece.  Thank you .   From buying furniture, food, appliances and more, the expats and retirees  have supported the local community throughout the pandemic.    If Phuket wants "herd immunity" they should help provide vaccines for everyone, including vaccines of their choice by this small, but core group of people.   It is certainly a debacle created by the current government...

CaptainJack69 | 06 June 2021 - 13:01:13

Any "industry-segment breakdown" of vaccine recipients on Phuket would reveal just how many doses have been wasted on non-Phuket based Thai nationals.

Dave_C | 06 June 2021 - 11:05:36

Big thank you to Phuket News for championing the cause of retired expats.
It seems to fall on deaf ears as the majority are over 60 with no facility whatsoever to even register.

This group has supported the Phuket economy during the shutdown and have voluntarily provided real help to the local community.
They are highly at risk and the officials should hang their heads in shame.

Fascinated | 06 June 2021 - 10:56:46

Do you really expect 1 July to happen? It will be a dribble, not a torrent. With three weeks to go it is clear that infrastructure is not gearing up as they know it will be a massive fail, despite what the Gov't says.

maverick | 06 June 2021 - 10:15:47

Nice positive piece from the PN - stirring up more vaccine hesitancy - irresponsible reporting at best, downright cynical at worst we should all be pulling together to get the province and rest of country out of this mess created by governments and not the pandemic.

 

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