“We would like people who haven’t been infected with COVID-19 to go to work, while those who are infected must be quarantined and treated following steps,” Mr Prab told The Phuket News sister-newspaper Khao Phuket in an exclusive interview.
The Patong business sector and the local community have rallied together to establish free ATK checkpoints and provide affordable antigen test kits (ATKs) to help alleviate the expenses Patong people face in the repeated testing required just so they can go to work, he said.
“We have daily tests so infections don’t spread. We sell test kits at an initial price of B40, which we have bought for B40-49 per set. The price depends on each lot. If the person has no money to spare, we will provide the test for free,” he added.
“At the moment, we are still accepting tourists, so we have to live with COVID-19,” Mr Prab continued.
“We have to open and close businesses sometimes in this situation. We have to take care of ourselves," he said.
“Importantly, we must know what to do when an employee or business operator is infected,” he added.
“Of course, a wide variety of COVID-19 variants will come. So we must adapt and learn to live with it because, while we may not die from COVID-19 , we may die from economic catastrophe,” Mr Prab said.
Mr Prab warned of the consequences of people not following the COVID-prevention measures.
“Even though we are currently entering our fifth outbreak, we are still at least one step behind the Omicron strain,” he said.
"While the symptoms of being infected with Omicron are much less severe than that of Delta, it has an impact on our lives and businesses.” he said.
“As a result, the government may have to reduce service times [the hours a business may be allowed open], it may order some closures, or it may even order lockdowns inside the country, and suspend economic activities if the situation worsens," he warned.
“We can’t stop Omicron, but now we know better how to stay with COVID-19 each day, and reduce the burden on the public health system,” Mr Prab noted.
“People have learned to protect themselves and what to do when they learn they are infected with COVID-19. They now know that they can quarantine at home, at a community isolation centre, or at a hotel, unlike before, when everyone had to go to a hospital,” he said.
“We now have ATKs, but we still have a shortage of medicines and vaccines that aren’t as easy to import as ATKs. As a result, we must continue to improve," he added.
Mr Prab’s call for a united stand to counter the spread of infections while keeping Patong businesses alive comes as Phuket officials, through the police, are now enforcing a 9pm shutdown of all licensed venues to ensure that alcohol is not served or consumed on the premises.
The move came into effect last Sunday, in line with a national order issued by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok last Friday.
One Patong bar owner explained to The Phuket News that keeping the nightlife venues on Bangla Rd open was vital, not only for the tourism industry, but also for the staff dependent on the income from working.
“People forget that Thailand has no income support for the unemployed. These people need these jobs,” he said.