Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong confirmed the policy through the live broadcast online at 8pm last night following the meeting of the Phuket Communicable Disease Committee yesterday (May 17).
Another official order issued by Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew, confirming the policy that was already mandated by a provincial order, was posted publicly at 10pm last night.
Vice Governor Piyapong explained that until last Saturday (May 15) people were allowed to enter Phuket even if they were not fully vaccinated and could not prove they had tested negative for the virus within 72 hours of arriving if they passed a rapid antigen test on arrival.
The rapid antigen tests were free for Thais, paid for by the National Health Security Office (NHSO) until May 15, V/Gov Piyapong explained.
Not explained was that foreigners were charged B500 for each test.
However, due to massive tailbacks at the one checkpoint onto the island, officials had continued to provide the rapid antigen tests for people arriving by road throughout Sunday and yesterday (May 16-17), V/Gov Piyapong admitted yesterday.
“We do not have the budget to provide the test for arrivals and on May 16 many arrivals were unable to meet our requirements [for entering Phuket],” he said.
“So our medical staff provided the rapid test on May 16 and today [May 17], which arrivals had to pay by themselves. The test cost was B450,” he added.
The B450 fee for the procedure was applied to both Thais and foreigners, V/Gov Piyapong noted.
At no point previously had any Phuket officials publicly admitted the tests were being continued so that people could still enter the province by means of passing a rapid antigen test, a measure that was discontinued on May 15 by provincial order.
Not explained by V/Gov Piyapong was that much of the problem stemmed from truck drivers delivering fresh produce and goods onto the island, who are required to comply with the entry requirements.
Also directly affected were people living in Phuket or Phang Nga who relied on regular travel across the bridge for work or other business purposes.
Without the rapid antigen tests available, each truck driver and other person needing to cross the bridge would be required to prove they had undergone a COVID test at a hospital, a procedure that costs around B3,000 per time.
Of note, while truck drivers remained stuck at the checkpoint onto Phuket, prices of fresh produce at markets in Phuket Town have been rising.
V/Gov Piyapong did admit yesterday, “Some hospitals in other provinces such as Phang Nga can provide only 100 COVID tests a day. That is not enough for what the arrivals need.”
However, V/Gov Piyapong announced plainly last night, “From today on, no rapid tests anymore. Arrivals without any documents must get the quarantine order at the checkpoint.
“From the meeting today, the committee altogether agreed to order arrivals without the one of the two documents to do quarantine for 14 days from May 18.
“If you stay in Phuket shorter than 14 days, then you will be in quarantine as long as you stay on the island,” he said.
“Staff from the Phuket Public Health Office [PPHO] will stand by at the checkpoint and give arrivals a quarantine order which will be copied and sent to Emergency Operation Center (EOC) in each subdistrict,” he said.
“Then the EOC staff will go to follow up your quarantine at your homes or hotels,” he added.
“However, the checkpoint is closed from 11pm to 5am, the PPHO staff will provide the quarantine orders [only] from 8:30am to 8:30pm,” he said.
V/Gov Piyapong did point out that day-trippers to Phuket were exempt from any of the entry requirements.
They do not have to be fully vaccinated, they do not have to prove they have tested negative for the virus within 72 hours of arriving, there is no longer the option to take a rapid antigen test, and no quarantine period will be applied.
“For day-trippers, they are allowed to come, do their thing and leave,” he said.
“We will come up with something that people will require later. This is all we [the Phuket Communicable Disease Committee] have agreed so far,” he said.
Of note, for people arriving in Phuket at the airport, V/Gov Piyapong would only say, “For arrivals who come by plane, we still keep the same measure. Only arrivals who are fully vaccinated or tested negative within 72 hours are allowed to come.”
V/Gov Piyapong made no mention of whether any quarantine periods will be allowed for people arriving by plane. That point remains unclear.
To try to make the “new” requirements for people entering Phuket by road clearer, the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department (PR Phuket) issued a new notice today (May 18).
The notice explains at length which vehicles may enter Phuket as long as the drivers and passengers comply with the requirements.
The notice specifically notes the following vehicles are to be allowed passage onto the island as long as the enter requirements are met: vehicles delivering living goods, livestock, agricultural products, medical equipment, publications, cooking gas, fuel, essential items for the public or providing financial services.
Also permitted are emergency services, officials conducting authorised duties and private vehicles, though the driver and passengers must prove their necessary reason to come to Phuket.
“Arrivals not fully vaccinated or tested as required in Section 1 [the entry requirements] must quarantine for 14 days or as long as you stay in the area under the care of EOC for the area where you are staying,” the notice explains..
“A quarantine order will be issued by an officer at Phuket Check Point only from 8:30am to 8:30pm.
“No vehicles (except delivery vehicles) are allowed into Phuket outside of these hours.” the notice said.