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Phuket Opinion: What are they doing?

PHUKET: The mess created by officials in handling the inevitable skyrocketing of COVID infections this week as Omicron began in earnest its sweep across the island had observers, and those caught up in the mess, all asking the one, same question: “What are they doing?”

opinionCOVID-19tourism
By The Phuket News

Sunday 9 January 2022, 10:00AM


Possibly the photo of the week: PPHO Chief Dr Kusak Kukiattikoon wrings his hands while talking to the press about the COVID situation in Phuket on Tuesday (Jan 4). Photo: PR Phuket

Possibly the photo of the week: PPHO Chief Dr Kusak Kukiattikoon wrings his hands while talking to the press about the COVID situation in Phuket on Tuesday (Jan 4). Photo: PR Phuket

If you are going force tourists to stay in their hotel rooms, you have to tell them first. The tourists are trying to do the right thing by reporting themselves for medical treatment as soon as they learn they are COVID-positive not just as a nicety, but as a condition of entry to the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked them to legally attest to this in their Thailand Pass application before the tourist came.

You also have to tell the SHA+ managers at the hotels where the guests are staying that this is the new policy BEFORE it becomes an issue. That would help a lot.

Worse, if hospitals are going to refuse to even recognise foreigners presenting themselves after learning they have tested positive for COVID, you have to tell the tourists to not bother.

That particular issue crossed many lines this week, as foreigners who were actually suffering increasingly serious symptoms were refused treatment while the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) daily report itself was telling the public that of all the hospital beds in Phuket dedicated to COVID-19 patients, only 64% were full.

One observer noted that he was recommending that foreigners experiencing serious symptoms to just call an ambulance. That sorts out the dilemma for the hospital staff bamboozled by the conflicting orders to treat people with COVID symptoms, and to refuse them if they think the case is not serious enough.

In all this, somehow the Thai public health system in Phuket has forgotten that patients with serious enough symptoms may be admitted as “inpatients”, and that lighter cases may be treated as “outpatients”. How simple is that?

For local Thai residents, all this was already covered by the Aunjai Clinic set up at the Auditorium of the new Provincial Hall. Somehow, when it came to what to do with foreign tourists testing positive, all of this came as a surprise.

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There are no words to describe how this may have been possible, or that measures were unable to be put in place in time, especially when the Minister of Public Health is also a Deputy Prime Minister sitting on the executive committee of the Center of COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) – while the country remains under an emergency decree specifically to cope with implementing such measures. If that is not enough clout to get things done it is a very scary notion to consider what would be required.

Kudos to Vice Governor Pichet Panapong this week for pointing out the critical issues assailing foreign tourists this week, and the fact that Phuket officials have no authority to enact on any of them as Bangkok requires to gift its permission first due to the level of inter-governmental department coordination required. Now we know clearly just much “Phuket” policy is being dictated from there. Why Bangkok officials do not just announce the policies from there is anyone’s guess.

Aside from the stunning revelation that Phuket officials are not even allowed to set up a 24-hour call centre specifically to handle questions from foreigners about the current situation, the lack of testing facilities to cope with the sheer number of RT-PCR tests now required beggars belief.

Isn’t having tourists return to Phuket in numbers what they wanted? Didn’t they know that many of these tourists will need another test before heading home to prove they tested negative with 72 hours of boarding their homebound flight as condition of returning to their home country? How this could have been an oversight can only leave one dumbstruck.

Another critical issue also publicly recognised by V/Gov Pichet are the foreigners being forced to move to some form of hotel isolation quarantine for being identified as high-risk contacts. The mandatory COVID insurance doesn’t cover this, and the government has been well aware of this issue since mid-last year – yet nothing was done, and here we are in 2022 finally recognising it.

If tourism officials are looking for solid reasons for the recent plunge in tourism arrivals, instead of blaming it on the COVID situation in the tourists’ home countries, they might want to take a very good look at the slew of disincentives of the risk of being caught up in Thai bureaucracy when all the tourists want is a holiday.

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JohnC | 10 January 2022 - 08:59:05

Kick out all the russians and most of the problems of covid spreading will disappear much quicker. I have never seen a race of people so arrogantly ignoring the rules they signed to be allowed to travel here as a tourist. Allowing them to keep renewing covid visa extensions means they will never leave until forced to. Would you want to go back to that cold bleak s..thole!

Madeinswiss | 10 January 2022 - 02:49:00

I thinkthe word planning doesn't exist in Thai.... So funny

christysweet | 09 January 2022 - 15:46:25

The subtropical brain has not evolved a capacity for  future planning. Too bad the N Asian heritage Thais are too occupied making fortunes  to actually run the government. 

Virushater | 09 January 2022 - 14:30:52

What is going on right now in Thailand regarding Omikron reveals the incompetence and excessive demand of all officials who are involved in the pandemic management. It also reveals the latent discrimination of the Thai government against foreigners, who are basically only good for making money. As a foreigner in Thailand you often are treated as a second class human. 

up2you2 | 09 January 2022 - 13:17:47

 at the moment through these international tourists.
Then set that aside against a potential variant, that demanded a total lockdown throughout the whole country, with what consequences that would have on Thailand's total current GDP.
Is this really worth the risk?

up2you2 | 09 January 2022 - 12:15:21

I think at some point, a distinction should and has to be made, between encouraging international tourism during a world wide pandemic, and resting on solely domestic tourism.
Whilst this pandemic is still continuing, through all of its mutations and variants, one has to ask first of all, just what kind of GDP percentage is actually being added to the economy, at the moment through these internat

Foot | 09 January 2022 - 12:02:40

PG - Good story. The real problem is that Thailand doesn't educate people to think logically  to come up with any workable solutions. Only only teaches them how to follow directions and that's why nothing gets better.

lelecuneo | 09 January 2022 - 10:26:45

ban all russian and half of the problem is solved! Then ban all Thais and the ther half also solved...LOL

Fascinated | 09 January 2022 - 10:13:16

Its all been a massive con for the tourists but finally they ae realizing it and will vote with their feet. Once 'shoulder season' ends next week watch the exodus. Back to empty beaches due to ineptitude and falsehoods.

Nasa12 | 09 January 2022 - 10:06:50

A very very good article PN.

 

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