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Phuket Opinion: The July 1 dilemma

PHUKET: Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has a true dilemma on his hands: push back the deadline for reopening Phuket to vaccinated international tourists to arrive on the island from July 1, or let it stand despite the current climate of fear over the latest COVID-19 outbreak.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 18 April 2021, 09:00AM

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn (left) explains the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ plan at an event in Bangkok on April 1. Photo: MoTs

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn (left) explains the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ plan at an event in Bangkok on April 1. Photo: MoTs

The report just yesterday explaining that providing the required number of vaccine doses for Phuket to achieve herd immunity by July 1 is they key issue raises far too many questions – and will only give credence to those who have openly criticised the government for its late start in vaccinating its people.

After bungling the call to remove online comments by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit about the national handling of the mass-vaccination campaign, this is one scenario the current government would need to avoid.

Further, reallocating the vaccine doses already repeatedly declared as dedicated to Phuket to make the July 1 deadline possible would require backtracking on a promise to the people of Phuket, whose household incomes have been devastated by the loss of tourism.

It would also delay further restarting the economy of the one province in Thailand that previously made more money from tourism than any other province in the country outside of Bangkok. The government may be speaking loudly that the economy is “fine” and the government is not in running into debt yet, but that clock is ticking.

The big question is, if vaccinated tourists do start coming after July 1, what would be the likely consequences?

The mass-vaccination efforts in Phuket were, obviously, to protect the people of Phuket from being infected by international arrivals. The tourists will not be at risk, they’ll be vaccinated. Any tourists not vaccinated still coming – or travelling anywhere right now – will have already made their choice.

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The trick now is to ask, protect the people of Phuket from what, exactly? It can’t be the B.1.1.7. variant originally from the UK, that one is already here. That strain is the variant amid the current surge in infections – and by July 1 the people of Phuket would either be vaccinated against it, or already exposed to it.

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, as much loved and respected he is by the expat community, believes the current outbreak will be pretty much over within a month.

Following the previous outbreak experiences in other countries that would be true, except those countries instituted lockdowns to help slow the spread of the virus during secondary waves. Thailand has not, only adding to the probability that those not yet vaccinated one way or another will be exposed to the UK strain by the time July 1 arrives.

If vaccinated international tourists do start arriving from July 1, that will leave Phuket exposed to the other strains that tourists will bring, such as the South African, Brazilian and now Indian variants. This was always the case, and why mandatory tests on landing were always among the requirements for vaccinated tourists to be allowed into the country. Any red flags means mandatory quarantine.

What has been overlooked, intentionally or otherwise, is the role private entities can play in helping Phuket achieve herd immunity before July 1. For some reason that option keeps falling off the table when discussions are being held about what to do to vaccinate the people of Phuket, and all the tourism workers who will be on the frontline when arrivals are allowed.

Re-opening the island to international tourists by July 1 was always a push – doable, but a push. The #PhuketFirstOctober campaign was always an achievable reality. Regardless, there is very little reason not to keep aiming for the July 1 deadline for now – unless there is something about the availability of vaccine doses the people are not being told about.

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LALALA | 21 April 2021 - 10:18:00

Christy, I personally not support any of the is Pharma companies, I DO NOT wear a mask, I WILL NOT get vaccinated. The problem is that the majority of the world population is brain washed by media and governments and ruled via fear. If everybody would refuse the vaccines this hoax would be over very soon, its called demand and supply. Remember the swine flue scandal years ago.

Christy Sweet | 21 April 2021 - 01:02:28

 I can think of no better way to facilitate Big Pharma Brother  than to ignore an dangerous pathogen and allow it to run rampant. 

Christy Sweet | 21 April 2021 - 00:58:39

 La, SARS/Covid causes breakdowns of life sustaining systems,  usually lungs unable to process O2 sufficiently. As for banning cars.. weak ass straw man, the pretzel logic  has devolved into flour, salt  and yeast, with no water or heat to reconstitute a form.  

Tbird | 20 April 2021 - 20:08:41

jamstock: the risk is to the long-term plans of the Globalists who are attempting to use this "pandemic" as the catalyst for The Great Reset. The risk of mortality for the non-vulnerable ( not afflicted with obesity, diabetes, etc.) population is close to nil.

Tbird | 20 April 2021 - 20:01:18

Speaking of car crashes, Christy Sweet: by your logic, motorized vehicles should be outlawed as one has an astronomically larger chance of dying in a car/motorbike accident than dying of Covid 19. 

LALALA | 20 April 2021 - 19:15:14

No Christy, this is a statement done in writing by the CDC, if you like it or not. 

Christy Sweet | 20 April 2021 - 14:26:04

La by your logic, car crashes are not the cause of death- inertia is. Bullets fired at a high velocity into a body don't kill people, just hemorrhaging does ... 

LALALA | 20 April 2021 - 11:17:23

Kurt, stop the fearmongering, most death, in fact more than 90 percent are nit caused by covid as the main factor as the CDC reported.

Kurt | 20 April 2021 - 10:55:36

Re-Opening Island by July 1? Even 'push-push' that wish is not realistic. Consider whole of Thailand a 'Red Zone', and clean up/bringing down the rising numbers of Covid-19 infections. Some western countries warn their citizens already that they have to go in quarantine after their return from certain Asian countries. All costly & time (!)demands are not invite for Thailand hol...

Kurt | 20 April 2021 - 09:49:40

@Skip, we now in 2021, not in 2018. Look at  present Covid-19 figures in Brazil and the last 5-6 days in India. Buddha helps Thailand when 'their' variants become significant here in Thailand.

skip | 20 April 2021 - 05:51:36

in 14 months 101 people died in thailand after testing positive to covid. in 2018 WHO data shows 33,474 died from flu. dont fear covid, the data says it all. no lockdown for influenza..why not ?? vaccine shedding after vaccination and massive increasing of PCR testing has increased the positives giving the authorities no alternative but to increase restrictions. it will never end.

Kurt | 19 April 2021 - 00:27:18

Anyway, the whole of Thailand and the rest of the real world knows by now that Phuket Island Province is a Covid-19 RED ZONE!  But Phuket Governor still did not announce that as 'Captain of Phuket ship'.  Phuket Governor is still silent as a mouse about the Red Zone status of Phuket. Why is that? Is Governor on a extended Songkran holiday somewhere else in Thailand?

paulhkg | 18 April 2021 - 17:15:42

The information leaflet I received with my first jab from Astrazenica indicated that the second dose is to be given between 4 and 12 weeks after the first one.

Foot | 18 April 2021 - 13:25:49

If Thailand wants to rebuild a major tourism industry, it needs to do one thing. Close down the current TAT - everyone goes-and replace it with a TAT that is staffed with actual experts on tourism. The current TAT has never had them and that's why they never have a truly progressive industry. All the new TAT top people should come from tourism powerhouses - Las Vegas, Paris, Tokyo, London.

Foot | 18 April 2021 - 13:19:33

"The big question is, if vaccinated tourists do start coming after July 1, what would be the likely consequences?"  No, the real question is "How many would come if allowed?" The answer to that is only a few. Everything is closed. Jungceylon isn't going to reopen because of a few thousand tourists! Cut all the crap and hire some real experts.

LALALA | 18 April 2021 - 12:41:53

You are correct risk of what ?

Kurt | 18 April 2021 - 12:08:22

@Heinz, Yes, you are right, and the time between the 1st and 2nd jab of AstraZeneca is quite long. Indeed 12 Weeks! Than plus at least 2 more weeks to be fully protected. Even the date of 01 October is now a questionable point.

Heinz | 18 April 2021 - 11:43:55

Astrazeneca vaccinations for over 60 start in June! Second vaccination three months later! How should immunity exist on July 1st?

Kurt | 18 April 2021 - 11:27:15

Soon Health Minister Anutin will have another big problem at hand. Military crackdown cripples Myanmar's fight against Covid19. That means with 'open laying border' in between there is a real threat to destabilize further the health situation in Thailand. It will become manifest coming months before the 1st of July.

Tppriv | 18 April 2021 - 11:07:48

There is only one long term solution:
Give the 2 most effective MRNA vaccines emergency FDA approval. Allow private hospitals to buy Pfizer and Moderna and start vaccinations with those as options. Many people would gladly pay for it for themselves and some also for the domestic and/or business related staff. That would bring the safety levels in all tourist hotspots up in no time.

Kurt | 18 April 2021 - 10:29:43

What is happening around us, a spiking wave of Covid-19 infections what make Government to tell people now ( after Songkran) not to travel should be the 'Instruction Manuel' how to handle 1 July 'dilemma'. No domestic travel, than sure no international inflow of travelers, as long the Phuket population has not been vaccinated with quality vaccines that give more protection than 50%...

Shwe | 18 April 2021 - 09:49:08

Tourists vaccinated or not are unlikely to visit a country that is experiencing a third wave and locking down, they cannot get a drink in a bar or with their meal, and run the risk of being locked out of their home countries. Open on July 1 will make little difference, tourists are unlikely 

jamstock | 18 April 2021 - 09:42:45

At risk of what? Less than 100 people have died (out of 40,000 "cases") since the start of this so-called pandemic. And all of them had comorbidities. So where is the risk?


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