Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew today inspected the operations to ensure they went smoothly, though long queues of people were found waiting to undergo the procedure.
Governor Narong during his live video press conference this morning said that it was expected that very few people would be able to avoid having to take the rapid test, even though the first two flights today carried less than 150 passengers in total.
“The first two flights, we have 79 and 52 passengers, respectively,” Governor Narong said.
“Today is our first day. Most passengers do not have the documents to prove they are COVID-free and need to be tested. They have to fill information into a form, which is for prove to the National Health Security Office [NHSO] that they had the test, so it is quite crowded in the areas we arranged,” he said.
“Among the passengers, only one person, a medical staffer, could prove they were fully vaccinated, and three people could prove they had tested negative for the virus within 72 hours before coming,” he added.
Under the revised COVID-protection order issued by Governor Narong on Tuesday (Apr 20), all arrivals from the other 17 ‘red zone’ provinces (Phuket is one of the 18 red zone provinces in the country) who are unable to prove that they are fully vaccinated or unable to prove they have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before arriving must be cleared by an ‘Antigen Rapid Test’ before being allowed onto the island.
Although the advisory notice issued in English yesterday noted that people had to prove both, Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong confirmed to The Phuket News this afternoon that people arriving from red zone provinces need to prove either that they are fully vaccinated, OR prove that they tested negative within 72 hours of arriving in order to avoid taking the rapid test.
“I confirm that foreigners do not have to do the rapid test if they can prove they are fully vaccinated OR tested negative within 72 hours,” he said.
“It needs to be the word ‘or’. We need to fix the notice,” he said.
The rapid test requirement today was also enforced at the Phuket Check Point at Tha Chatchai, the one way by road onto the island, with Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor) President Rewat Areerob overseeing operations there.
Governor Narong this morning apologised in advance for the inconvenience of enforcing the rapid test.
“I have to apologise for this inconvenience, but we have to do this to protect our local people and the passengers themselves from infection,” he said.
“We choose to test arrivals instead of quarantine because I think it is a better way to move forward our economy and tourism. The measure will support our plan to reopen to foreign tourists,” he added.
Phuket International Airport General Manager Thanee Chuangchoo noted, “We have six teams of medical staff from hospitals in Phuket to conduct the rapid tests for arrivals.
“Our medical staff are now working perfectly. I think staff at other airports should take Phuket International Airport as a role model,” he said.
Mr Thanee also noted that mass vaccinations resumed today at X-Terminal building at the airport for people to receive their second vaccination injection.