Image by Mr.Autthaporn Pradidpong

Phuket’s first tourists since lockdown to arrive from China

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor, Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn announced the news today (Sept 29), assuring that the arrivals will be safe. “Guangzhou has not had any new COVID-19 infections for months. This group of tourists must be tested for COVID-19 no more than 72 hours before entering Thailand and they must stay in alternative state quarantine for 14 days,” he said.

The tourists will be tested for the virus on arrival, he assured. All of the arrivals must have health insurance coverage to the equivalent of US$100,000, but he did not specifically confirm whether the tourists will be entering Thailand on the recently approved Special Tourist Visa or STV. “The new arrivals will be initially granted 90 days to stay in the country and will have the option of renewing their stays twice more, each time for a period of 90 days,” he said. The Special Tourist Visa allows tourists to stay in the country for a period of 270 uninterrupted days. “They must follow public health measures, wear masks, wash their hands regularly and strictly maintain social distancing,” he said.

Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO) Chief, Dr. Thanit Sermkaew told The Phuket News today, “We are ready to receive tourists in Phuket province, the health protocols have been prepared for the first group of tourists, which will come in October,” he said. He also confirmed that Phuket was now home to nine hotels that have been approved to serve as alternative local quarantine. The nine hotels are the Anantara Mai Khao Phuket Villas, Trisara, Metadee Resort and Villas, Phuket Graceland Resort & Spa, Anantara Phuket Suites & Villas, JW Marriott Phuket Resort & Spa, The Senses Resort and Pool Villas, Banyan Tree Phuket and the Laguna Holiday Club Phuket Resort. 

“They had 918 rooms at the time they applied, but now some of them are adding more rooms, so in the end these nine hotels together offer about 1,200 guest rooms right now,” he explained.

Phuket Vice Governor, Mr. Phichet Panaphong explained at a meeting of the Phuket Communicable Disease Committee yesterday that tourists who had completed 14 days quarantine will be required to move to another tourist accommodation hotel or condominium for the remainder of their first 30 days’ stay.

“This is to ensure that the income generated by tourists is shared across the province,” he said.

Under the conditions laid out so far by the CCSA in Bangkok, tourists who land in Phuket must spend the first 14 days in quarantine before they can venture out to other areas in the province. They must stay in Phuket for their first 30 days, after which they can visit other areas in the country, but only after being tested for COVID-19 again.

Phuket had not had any new COVID-19 cases for 126 days, V/Gov Phuket also noted yesterday.

However, Tourism and Sports Minister, Mr. Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn last week announced plans to reduce the quarantine period to just seven days, if the initial groups of tourists prove that the COVID-19 preventative measures prove effective. “If the first two groups of 300 foreigners complete the 14-day quarantine without a positive case, then the ministry plans to propose an increase in the number of tourists per week by November 1, 2020,” he said.

National Health Minister, Dr. Anutin Charnvirakul made the public declaration yesterday, “We are ready to welcome tourists to Thailand.”

 

Phuket Governor, Mr. Narong Woonciew last week already made his public statement of confidence, explaining that the last hurdle for Phuket to be fully cleared to receive tourists was for a new laboratory set up at Phuket airport to be inspected and approved by experts. He personally inspected the laboratory yesterday, where tourist arrivals will be tested for COVID-19.

Following the inspection, Phuket Airport General Manager, Mr. Thanee Chuangchoo told The Phuket News that Ministry of Health Medical Sciences Division experts already stationed in Phuket were to inspect the laboratory tomorrow (Sept 30). Mr. Thanee was also very confident the lab would pass inspection. “Each tourist will be tested for COVID-19 at the airport. The test will take about two hours, and the laboratory has the ability to test about 50 people per hour,” he said.

Last week Governor Narong pointed out that Phuket was suffering heavily from the impact on tourism from the COVID-19 pandemic, with nearly 70% of all tourism businesses across Phuket still closed.

According to data collected by the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA), 30.4% of businesses in Phuket are now open as normal, he told a meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall held to discuss strategies to accelerate economic recovery and tourism to expedite aid to people affected by COVID 19.

Citing the data, Governor Narong explained that 66.8% of all tourism business are still “closed temporarily”, and 2.8% had closed permanently. 

“By the end of September, the number of businesses to be closed will increase up to 70% for sure,” he said.

The DEPA report also marked that 50% of staff working in the Phuket tourism industry were Phuket natives, while 34.3% of staff came from other provinces in Southern Thailand. The rest, 15.7%, were from other parts of Thailand, Governor Narong explained.