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Phuket Opinion: Try not to panic

PHUKET: Thai officials have yet again used a sledgehammer to crack a walnut in the declaration that all international arrivals from 1am Monday must present evidence of full vaccination against COVID-19 in order to enter the country.

By The Phuket News

Sunday 8 January 2023, 09:00AM

Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who also serves as the Public Health Minister. Photo: NNT / file

Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who also serves as the Public Health Minister. Photo: NNT / file

Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who also serves as the Public Health Minister, has chosen to toe the Chinese Government line and this week declared that Thailand cannot “discriminate against one country” in its policy to protect the Thai people.

“The principle is there will not be any discrimination against a particular country because COVID-19 is spreading in all countries and the strains are similar. So, COVID-19 should not be an issue of discriminating against any country,” he said.

Mr Anutin, really? Back in 2020, when Thailand declared that travellers from South Korea, China, Italy, Iran, Macau and Hong Kong who failed to show their health certificates to authorities before boarding their flights to Thailand will not be allowed to continue their journey, no one disagreed or cried foul over discrimination – not even China.

In 2021, when Thailand banned people arriving specifically from eight African countries due to Omicron outbreak there, it was not called discrimination. Even for the mightily praised Test & Go entry scheme last year, discrimination was on show for all to see, with only 46 countries initially allowed to enter Thailand under the scheme, still no one cried foul.

Yet today, China bleats unfair and Thailand bows. At best, the blatant hypocrisy is insulting; at worst it is panic appeasement in order to kowtow to the Chinese Government. Mr Anutin, what the government – and the world – understood during those dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic was that discrimination was required in order to determine and mitigate risk of exposure.

What is relevant is that general reports, not just those by Thai officials, are noting that the COVID strains currently spreading throughout major populated areas in China are much less severe than their predecessors. That is good news, and good reason not to panic, but it is also where the blanket ‘vaccinated-only’ entry policy falls apart.

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No one is to be tested on arrival, they are only to present evidence of vaccination. Add to that being vaccinated is no protection against carrying the virus or being infected with COVID-19, as even Phuket Provincial Public Health Office Chief Dr Kusak Kukiattikoon confirmed during the Omicron outbreak across Phuket last year, and it becomes plain that requiring people to be vaccinated achieves nothing in preventing an influx of the latest strains of the virus.

What people are worried about is the viral load being introduced into Thailand, greatly enhancing the risk of falling ill. It is the number of carriers that is concerning, introducing a large number of people with a much higher probability of carrying COVID to not just the resident population, but also in more concentrated areas that tourists are exposed to, including the airport, shopping malls, popular pubs, bars, restaurants and other eateries and major tourist attractions.

This is the part that no Thai officials are talking about. No one wants to get sick on their holidays, nevermind risk contracting even mild forms of COVID. It’s just not fun, and can easily be deemed not worth the risk. What is the projected impact on tourists who are not from China choosing to not come to Thailand now knowing they will be sharing common areas with a much higher probability of contracting a strain of COVID, a less severe strain or otherwise, is anyone’s guess, but there will be an effect.

As ‘Phuket Opinion’ pointed out last week, the Chinese people are not to be blamed for wanting to come to Phuket on holiday, especially after what they have just gone through under the attempts to enforce a successful ‘Zero COVID’ policy. The Chinese Government shouldn’t even be blamed for its claims of discrimination, ridiculous as it was, as they tried their luck and got what they wanted. The responsibility for this mess rests squarely on the heads of Thailand’s illustrious leaders, it was their decision to make.

Now all they have to figure is what to do with people who arrive unvaccinated while they wait to fly back home or onto another nearby destination that does not have the same requirements, and to count the cancellations over the next two weeks of those who did not get their last booster jab more than 14 days before their departure date.

Meanwhile, they can also reflect on all those promises made to reduce Thailand’s tourism dependence on the Russian and Chinese mass markets, as that is clearly where Thailand is heading back to.

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skorchio | 12 January 2023 - 10:15:03

The only panic I see is the muppets who decided they can mandate vaccine requirements effective immediately, and expect that thats OK. It was so obviously going to be rolled back when the complaints started ....... MUPPETS

BrianinKathu | 09 January 2023 - 15:01:19

I think most Thais are sensible about this and are not panicking. Once again, the "sledgehammer" synonym is being used by the greedy against those who prefer safety

Kurt | 09 January 2023 - 06:43:04

I am sure the common Thai remains stoic under all this Government ruling. They don't panic. Different from HI-SO's who going to expect to miss a lot of tourist dollars coming time. They will panic and start to write letters/petitions to Prayut and his flock. 

Old guy | 08 January 2023 - 13:38:45

555. There's no reason to panic just because the people in charge have no idea what to do 

cheez | 08 January 2023 - 12:34:40

So....  Thai officials are caught out on their short or otherwise erased memory of their own historical international arrival measures.  An inconvenient truth?

Kurt | 08 January 2023 - 11:00:56

Great Article. Showing perfect what a contradicting boiling pot Thailand's Covid politics are. Just very clear, they twist and bend deeeep for master China. Discrimination? That is so very much inbedded in their life, they don't even understand anymore what real discrimination is. Just use it as a political punch ball.  TIT

SEC2 | 08 January 2023 - 10:16:34

Is it not discrimination by saying Thai people are exempt from showing vaccine certificates?

Fascinated | 08 January 2023 - 09:50:27

Yet again Minister Flip-Flop shoots himself in the foot and kow tows to his big boy cousins. Good to know he is not a potential future PM. Oh, hang on..........................

Nasa12 | 08 January 2023 - 09:46:04

Can only saying about this article 

JohnC | 08 January 2023 - 09:37:49

No one in the country's government ranks is ever held accountable for anything that goes wrong but they are very quick to put up their hands and take photo opportunities when something does go right, rarely as that is. Too pig headed to listen and too arrogant to admit when they are wrong.

Paddy | 08 January 2023 - 09:22:52

Brilliant article, well said . Every word is true . How easy those who never missed a paycheck forget what the rest of us had to go through over the last 3 years . Shame on Anutin. Will he be held accountable ???


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