So far all Phuket officials have announced is their general outline, it was more of a statement of intent. No actual details have been revealed, and any measures to be implemented have yet to be approved and confirmed by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok. Nothing will happen until they say so.
The clear issue is scaremongering and fear. To that, reporting of polls that claim that “more than 90%” of respondents voted to not reopen anywhere in Thailand to any tourists for the foreseeable future need to also report exactly which segments of the population they surveyed.
Farmers in the Northeast can do without tourists, but not here in Phuket. Tourism is how we ‘grow rice’. Without it, we suffer harshly. Let’s try telling rice farmers that they will not be allowed to sell their rice to anyone for the foreseeable future, and you will see protests akin to those of 2010, the so-called “people’s rebellion”, after the graft-ridden rice-subsidy scheme was drawn to a halt.
Further, an academic still on a full, fat government salary entirely unaffected by the current economic crisis telling millions of jobless people without any form of income that they must suffer for at least another six months is a pill too bitter to swallow.
Presenting spiralling numbers of deaths and infections in countries does nothing for the argument that Thailand must remain closed to the entire world. The global statistics report include differences in testing methods that make it very difficult to scientifically compare exactly how many people have tested positive to what.
The entire process of which foreigners may come and the conditions they may enter the country must be carefully thought out, but the decisions must be made soon. As more than 80% of respondents to an online by The Phuket News, with 38% of respondents being Thai, has shown, this island needs to restart its tourism industry, with appropriate protocols, regardless whether the rest of the country does not.
One thing officials must address sooner or later is what they will do when a COVID-positive person arrives in Phuket. That is inevitable, and the fearful throughout the country need to know that. A clear reminder that this was never about preventing the disease from arriving here, it was about “flattening the curve”, a phrase that has disappeared from news reports in recent months.
The CCSA reports at least one new COVID-positive case arriving from overseas every day. There is no panic about that, because of the highly publicised explanation that they are immediately removed from the general population and isolated for further testing and treatment. That begs the question of where is the wave of fear coming from.
What Phuket does with a new arrival who tests positive for COVID-19 is paramount. More so, officials need to make clear exactly what will they do with people who test positive for the disease but exhibit no signs of infection. Right now the world does not want to recognise that it has yet to be proved whether the disease can or cannot be transmitted by an asymptomatic person. Without doubt, this will be the new normal.