The man’s tirade, which has spread widely over Thai social media sites, came while officials were already continuing to provide tests for B450, despite the provincial order in effect at that time mandating that rapid tests no longer be available.
The man’s outburst was over being asked to pay B450 for the test, or else not being allowed to enter Phuket.
Under the previous entry requirements Thais were provided the test for free, while all foreigners were required to pay B500.
“There are no outsiders wanting to come to Phuket, but also people who have their house in Phuket. If they leave the island, they must pay B450 for returning home. What does this mean?
“We pay taxes. You must arrange government medical staff to provide the test and service us. You can have whatever measures you want, but if you hire an outside source and get money from us, it’s not right,” the man said.
“I’m not a Phuket native, but I have to come to Phuket every month. I also came last month. My friend did have the rapid test for free before, but this time we have to pay B450. Then you see me!
“Don’t need to apologise to me. If we see something wrong, we must speak out. We do not blame the staff, but we need to blame the person who set up the measure. The measure is bad like this, we can’t accept it!” the man railed.
Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong on Tuesday explained the new requirements for entering Phuket ‒ and admitted how officers at the checkpoint had continued to provide the rapid tests for B450 each last Sunday and Monday despite the provincial order in effect at that time mandating that the tests were no longer to be made available.
His explanation on Tuesday came only after Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew had issued an order that was not posted publicly until 10pm Monday night. The new entry requirements officially came into effect on Tuesday.
Vice Governor Piyapong took to social media again yesterday (May 20) to repeat his explanation.
“We would like to make our 500,000 people on the island to be safe. Arrivals who come by plane have to be swab tested before getting on board from the departing airport,” he said.
“From April 22 to May 15, we had rapid tests for arrivals at the airport and the checkpoint for free because the cost of the test was supported by the National Health Security Office [NHSO].
“After two weeks of using rapid test, the NHSO told us to use the test kits in the proactive screening in our provinces instead of testing new arrivals, as the number of people tested positive was very low,” he said.
Of note, after testing more than 73,000 arrivals, the rapid tests identified just 18 confirmed cases of infection.
“We planned to not conduct rapid testing at the airport and checkpoint anymore after May 15, but we had practical problems,” Vice Governor Piyapong continued.
“On May 16 and 17 we had a lot of arrivals wanting to come to Phuket, especially truck operators. They gathered and asked what to do. They told us they are ready to pay for the test,” he said.
“So we asked the medical staff of a private company who were staffing the desks and conducting the tests to continue to conduct the test for arrivals at the lowest price, which was B450.
“The company representative [of the company being paid to conduct the tests] told me they were not happy with the price and that they no longer wanted to conduct the tests at that price any longer,” V/Gov Piyapong explained.
“We want to stop the movement of people for a while, but we allow tested and vaccinated people to come because we think they have their own necessary reason,” he added.
“Phuket is an island, so we need to import food and other goods from the mainland. Drivers of the goods delivery trucks asked us to have self-paid testing at the checkpoint, otherwise they could not come in,” he explained.
“The video of that gentleman who got mad at the Phuket Government for self-paid testing came from May 17 when the private company conducted the tests for the last day.
“For now, we do not have rapid testing for arrivals at the checkpoint anymore,” V/Gov Piyapong said.
“The stopping of rapid testing did not come because of the video, we had discussed stopping the rapid tests before that. Additionally, the private company staff did not want to conduct the test anymore either.
“So, we published a new order for arrivals without documents to self-quarantine for 14-days,” he said.
“To be clear, from May 18, arrivals without any documents must face 14 days’ quarantine. This measure is planned to last for a short time to control the number of new cases on our island. We have had single-digit numbers of new cases for several days,” he added.
“About 500 drivers of goods delivery trucks have come to ask us for help. The Phuket Governor has a deal with them to provide the vaccine for drivers this Sunday,” he continued.
“This group of drivers understand that the vaccine must be injected in two doses, and they are willing to pay for the rapid testing during the gap between the first and second injection,” he said.
“We will find a company to conduct the rapid tests especially for the group of drivers,” he added.
“Most people on the island agree with our strict measure, but some people who need to get in and out of the province frequently and are affected by this measure, and already raised their voice to explain their problems,” he said.
The new restrictions which came into effect on Tuesday have received some praise online as the daily rate of new COVID-19 infections on the island has fallen during the week, with the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) reporting zero new cases for Wednesday (May 19).
However, the PPHO reported three new cases of infection confirmed yesterday (May 20).
Meanwhile, confusion has ensued over the new entry requirements, with Natapanu Nopakun, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Information and Deputy Spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, explaining during his English-language briefing to the country on Monday that people could still get rapid test for a fee, but that it was not available for people arriving in Phuket by road.
As Vice Governor Piyapong explained again yesterday, that is not the case.
As for people wanting to fly to Phuket, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) on Tuesday night issued an order for airlines to not allow any passengers to board flights to Phuket if they were unable to prove they were fully vaccinated or had tested negative for the virus by RT-PCR test within 72 hours of arriving at the boarding gate.
The option of flight passengers coming to Phuket being able to take a rapid antigen test was not made available.
So far Phuket officials have not clarified any of the requirements specifically for people wanting to fly to Phuket. The CAAT is the only government agency to do so.
The order issued on Tuesday mandated that the new entry requirements apply to all people arriving by land, air or sea, but the order marked that 14-day quarantine was an option only for land arrivals.