The approval of the test laboratory at the airport is considered the last hurdle before Phuket can be finally cleared by the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok to welcome international tourists once again.
Phuket Governor Narong Woonchiew, Phuket International Airport General Manager Thanee Chuangchoo and Phuket Provincial Health Office Chief Dr Thanit Seermkaew were all present today for the demonstration test of the laboratory and tourist-arrival procedures.
Leading the inspection was Dr Pimpa Techakamolsuk, Deputy Director Region 11 office of the Department of Disease Prevention and Control (DDC).
Following the test demonstration today, Governor Narong said plainly, “Even though we have yet to be officially approved by Bangkok, we are ready to welcome foreign tourists.”
However, Governor Narong also made it clear that he had yet to be officially informed that the first tourists to arrive on the island since the COVID-19 lockdown began six months ago would be 120 tourists arriving on a flight from Guangzhou, China, touching down at Phuket International Airport next Thursday (Oct 8).
“I have not received any official information from the CCSA yet, but I have already seen the news in the media,” he said.
“The Phuket Government will follow the orders of the CCSA strictly, as they were approved by many officials before, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Interior,” Governor Narong assured.
Regional DDC chief Dr Pimpa noted that officers from the Department of Medical Sciences under the Ministry of Public Health will come to inspect the test procedures at the airport tomorrow (Oct 1).
Only after then can Phuket be officially approved to directly receive international tourist arrivals, she said.
Airport General Manager Mr Thanee also explained that he had yet to receive any official confirmation from the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) that general commercial passenger aircraft would once again be allowed to enter the country.
“We have not received any requests for landing slots for a charter flight from China, so the flight has not been confirmed yet,” Mr Thanee said.
Asked how flights will be managed once the country reopens to inbound international commercial passenger flights, Mr Thanee said, “We have not done anything for that, as we are still waiting for the CCSA confirmation that the tourists are coming.”
Regarding the process of testing and allowing tourists to enter the country through Phuket airport, Regional DDC Chief Dr Pimpa explained that swab samples will be collected from tourists at the airport, then the tourists will be strictly guided through the immmigration and entry process before being taken to their registered quarantine accommodation.
The test results will take two to three hours, and will be sent to medical staff at each tourist’s respective hotel, she added.
PPHO Chief Dr Thanit also explained that, for now, nine hotels, altogether with around 1,200 rooms, had been approved by the CCSA to serve as alternative state quarantine venues (ALSQ).
“The PPHO will continue inspecting the hotels that have applied to become ALSQs, in order to increase the number of hotels open to welcome tourists,” he said.
Reporting by Tanyaluk Sakoot and Eakkapop Thongtub