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Phuket Opinion: The urgency of need

Phuket Opinion: The urgency of need

PHUKET: Our new Phuket Governor Narong Woonchiew being told earlier this week that going “back to basics” by relying on the island’s natural attractions to initially draw tourists back to the island was a funny punt. Right now, Phuket has nothing else to offer.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 28 June 2020, 09:00AM

Staff at Patong Municipality stand ready to hand out another 1,000 ‘community bags’ of essential items to people with no means to support themselves. Photo: Patong Municipality

Staff at Patong Municipality stand ready to hand out another 1,000 ‘community bags’ of essential items to people with no means to support themselves. Photo: Patong Municipality

In true irony, however, it has been the lack of tourists that has helped our natural attractions recover to the best condition they have been for years, except for the flotsam of trash and marine debris that keeps washing ashore our beaches this time of year.

All eyes are on whether or not the ban on inbound international commercial passenger flights will be lifted this coming week. Without the airport, businesses on the island have very little chance of even starting a recovery. Yet, whether bars and pubs will be allowed to reopen will be the true test. They are the most social of venues, and curtailing transmission of this disease is deemed paramount.

Debate continues online over whether or not bars and pubs should be allowed to reopen. One strong argument is that the risk of transmission at bars and pubs is no greater than at other venues already allowed to reopen. That may be so for venues whose regulars are local residents, but just as valid is the counterargument of keeping them closed in the hope of preventing a second wave of infections as the greater threat will be from new arrivals on the island, exactly the key clientele that main tourist areas have always relied on.

The first countries to reopen their borders are already experiencing severe repercussions as they each experience their own “second wave”. Natapanu Nopakun, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Information and Deputy Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made it very clear on Friday that the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) at Government House in Bangkok is watching the situation abroad closely, and taking this into consideration in their decisions on when, and by how much, Thailand is to reopen to visitors.

“Even though we have 32 days of no domestic infection, it does not mean that we are safe and far and worry-free from COVID because there’s always the possibility of a second wave of infection,” Mr Natapanu said on Friday.

Thai Residential

“As you see in the news and as the spokesperson had recapped many times a number of countries have already been entering the second wave already despite the precautions despite the all the excitement of having a low cases,” he cautioned.

Key officials in Bangkok set the pace for lifting restrictions months ago. Slow and steady they have chosen, and certainly not out of step with the international community. There have been no sudden moves, and there are no expectations that will change this week. They can of course try to look good while they’re at it, say by allowing limited international flights to return in full knowledge that the number of people arriving – given the set conditions the visitors must abide by – will greatly reduce the risk of inbound infections.

But what they must keep in mind is the damage being done with each passing day that “slow and steady” rules the rolling out the B1.9 trillion stimulus to aid the ailing economy. Thai bureaucracy is a behemoth, and it has already taken months to arrive at the point now that the government is “screening” applications for assistance. At the current pace of delivering the fiscal aid, by the time any of it arrives in any usable form to stimulate anything far too many businesses will have been killed off by red tape, not the virus.

The next month will be crucial for businesses on the island, if their owners and operators still have intentions of reopening. The layoffs are starting to bite even harder, and the longer this situation draws out, more attention must be given not only to food security and the physical welfare of those left dependent on handouts to get by, but also to their mental state. That aspect of the suffering has simply been left unattended.

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Kurt | 29 June 2020 - 10:30:19

Sandbar:  Phuket needs a SOLID economic base with LARGE percentage of environment friendly industries. Diversity has more future than remain limping on tourism only, with having in mind that in future another pandemic  can bring Phuket the same misery if it remains playing tourist card only. Real estate market? Try to sell a well maintained property without 'great discounts'. 

Sandbar | 29 June 2020 - 10:23:51

Great comments. Let's all hold hands and sing "Kum ba yah"!

Island Man | 29 June 2020 - 07:57:41

On an environmental note; as reported by PN some weeks/months ago, the hotel under construction above Kata Noi beach was given an order to stop construction sighting several violations. A ride past the construction site yesterday proved otherwise. Semi-trucks filled with materials were lined up on the road forcing all traffic into one lane. I guess someone didn’t get the memo. 

ThorFinger | 28 June 2020 - 23:10:30

Again; as WHO has stated: this virus will likely be here to stay and we're going to have to learn to live with it. Which means if you're around 80, you're probably not going to be able to travel much until a vaccine is found. For the rest of the population it is time to restart carefully. But we need to get rid of the fear mongering of incorrect symptoms, reasons for wearing masks etc

ThorFinger | 28 June 2020 - 23:03:50

Both good points sandbar and Kurt. We haven't defeated anything, we've just hidden. It's always going to come back and we'll probably all get the virus at some time, if we haven't had it already. It's clear the virus only really affects those with pre existing conditions... just the same as the common flu does albeit much stronger.

JSombra | 28 June 2020 - 13:52:53

People keep saying there have been multiple countries with second waves, my question is where has there been a second wave where they actually contained the virus in the first place? Answer: No where. A cluster forming in a country that did not completely eliminate the virus in just that, a cluster not 'a wave'. Clusters are never going away as just takes 1 person, a superspreader, to make...

Sandbar | 28 June 2020 - 13:34:04

Unfortunatley Kurt that large economic base you refer to is tourism. There's not much other incentive to invest, unless you consider condos and villas a worthy proposition? Its all about tourism! 

Kurt | 28 June 2020 - 11:31:26

Let's hope that Covid-19 pandemic indeed opened the 'Phuket eyes' that continuing playing the economy/job cards just on tourism only is not wise. Phuket needs a solid economic base with also large percentage environment friendly industries. The present sett back ( for long time) by the 'all eggs in 1 basket' thinking is a disaster, fully experienced now.

Sandbar | 28 June 2020 - 11:05:32

There have been further out breaks of covid-19 in both Singapore and Australia, both countries have relaxed thier restrictions? Further, both countries remain steadfast in thier strict boarder controls, so any new cases are from community related transmissions. The question has to be asked weather relaxing the restrictions has been a contributor to a spike in the number of infections?


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