Survey does show that there is interest in visiting Phuket and that some are already booked to come after July 1st. However, there is frustration that the island’s famous nightlife will be closed and over efforts to control visitors, including restrictions such as a ban on the consumption of alcohol while dining. It comes as top Siriraj Hospital medical expert, Dr Prasit Watanapa, has warned the government to abort the planned reopening.
A Thai Examiner opinion poll shows that nearly 92% of foreigners disagree with the decision by authorities on the island of Phuket to close bars and entertainment venues during the July 1st reopening of the well-known island destination with some travellers with links to Thailand already booked for arrival on the island after July 1st while others have cancelled their plans specifically because of last-minute restrictions and regulations. It comes as there is still unease about the plan because of mixed messaging from senior officials at both a local and national level as well as strong last-minute reservations expressed in the last 24 hours by one of the country’s most respected medical experts.
A Thai Examiner poll of foreigners has shown that 91.67% disagree with the decision by senior officials in Phuket to close bars and entertainment venues during the forthcoming reopening of the holiday island to foreign tourism after July 1st.
It comes as concern is still being expressed on the island over the government’s handling of the initiative which has been plagued by confusion and ambivalence which continues to generate uncertainty among potential foreign tourists and has already seen many potential visitors turned off, a fact confirmed by our opinion poll and comments survey.
TAT boss travelled to Phuket last weekend and gave assurances about the quarantine provisions
Last Saturday, it was reported that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) boss Yuthasak Supasorn travelled to Phuket to oversee workshops and briefings for tourism business operators on the island.
On this visit, he gave an assurance and guarantee that the reopening of Phuket to foreign holidaymakers would see vaccinated tourist arrivals not subject to quarantine.
Tourism Minister indicates that Phuket ‘will not be ready’ by the July 1st deadline just weeks away
However, at around the same time, the Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn issued a statement saying the island ‘will not be ready’ for the reopening despite its impressive strides in vaccinating the population.
This is in addition to the commitment and support of the international airline industry for the move which will see a resumption of key international flights directly into Phuket International Airport.
Local Phuket newspaper editorial criticises the continued ambivalence surrounding the plan
On Sunday, a highly critical editorial was published in the popular and influential local newspaper on the island The Phuket News which identified international expert reports alluding to the confusion and ‘chaotic’ preparation for the relaunch of the island to the international tourism market.
It also laid the blame squarely on local officials on the island who appear ambiguous and unsure when asked for clarification on any issue relating to expats and the Covid-19 crisis.
Enthusiasm knocked out of the plan by new rules and restrictions say respondents and potential travellers
The plethora of last-minute restrictions and regulations have also undermined enthusiasm for the reopening although many foreigners are still reported to be on the way back to Phuket from July 1st while others among over 120 commentary respondents to our poll, who explained their opinions, indicated that they had changed their travel plans after learning of the new rules being imposed.
The survey also clearly shows that there is strong interest in visiting the idyllic island in the Andaman Sea to enjoy the kind of holiday that Thailand, before March 2020, was well known and famous for. Some are still coming.
One of those is a grandfather with family living in Phuket, a situation which clearly illustrates the strong link between foreign tourism and long term expats in the kingdom.
Grandfather to fly in on July 9th to see family
The respondent to our reader’s survey, who is booked to fly to visit his son and grandchildren on July 9th next, was disappointed to hear of the decision by local authorities to restrict the consumption of alcohol by foreign travellers dining on the island.
‘I will come to Phuket on July 9th because my son and his family live in Thailand and I have not been able to see my grandchildren for almost two years. But I see no reason I can’t have a drink by the pool from the hotel bar, or a glass of wine with dinner. These regulations are absurd.’
Ban on alcohol in line with WHO public health guidance which advocates avoidance at all times
This point was also made by another respondent who questioned just why alcohol was being prohibited and not other drinks.
‘Several people can sit together in a restaurant and eat a meal, or drink water (but not wine), the same people cannot sit at a table in a bar and drink a beer (or water).’
However, guidance issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) does recommend that the public avoids alcohol during the pandemic for a variety of reasons including its negative health effects and, in particular, its ability to weaken the immune system.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance on alcohol use is unequivocal.
It identifies it as a health threat at all times and indeed, suggests that the practice of alcohol consumption at any time, sets a bad example to children.
Nearly 96% of foreigners say the closure of bars will hamper plans to attract international tourists
The survey showed that 95.83% of those who responded, with a fairly representative sample of 240 people, believe that the move to close bars and entertainment venues in Phuket for the reopening will hamper efforts to attract foreign tourists.
‘ I cancelled my trip because of this specifically. No point going,’ said one respondent while another revealed that he had planned to visit in August but had now switched to holidaying in Spain.
‘The tourists are vaccinated. 70% of Phuket residents are vaccinated. These closures are ridiculous. I’ve cancelled my plans to visit in August. I will go to Spain instead.’
Closure of bars and entertainment venues confirmed last week as well as other public health regulations
The closure of bars and entertainment venues was confirmed last week by the Mayor of Patong, Chalermsak Maneesri, who explained the decision had been made by the Governor of Phuket Narong Woonsiew and the TAT boss Yuthasak Supasorn.
This was announced at the same time as a range of further restrictions including further Covid-19 tests, tracking, a ban on the consumption of alcohol while dining and control of hotel room guests, emerged in the final details published for the reopening.
However, a sizable minority of foreigners, 29.17% of those polled, appeared to accept that the reopening of the island’s bars would pose a public health problem to locals and tourists alike on Phuket, at this time, while 70.83% disagreed.
Phuket reopening still not officially approved
Indeed, the reopening of Phuket as planned and advertised worldwide is still not fully approved by the Thai government despite its almost continuous review by agencies over the previous few months.
The final approval of when it came before the cabinet on June 8th was deferred and the matter was sent to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) for further review and input.
On Monday, Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters that the proposal had been approved by the National Communicable Diseases Committee (NCDC) with several conditions including three swab tests for tourists in the opening 14 days of their stay, a provision that tourists must come from low to moderate risk countries and that they are vaccinated at least 14 days before they arrive in Thailand.
Top doctor makes a last-minute appeal to abort the Phuket reopening on July 1st days before CCSA meets
On Thursday, it was reported that one of the country’s top medical experts and a highly respected advisor to the government, Dr Prasit Watanapa of the Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University has come out squarely against the Phuket Sandbox reopening plan, even at this late stage.
He warns that it could expose Thailand to new and more dangerous variants of Covid-19 when the kingdom overall still has a relatively low vaccination rate.
He is calling for the reopening to be postponed until the nationwide vaccination rate exceeds 50%.
‘Vaccines aren’t effective against all variants. Of course, it’s mostly okay for now, but there may be new variants that can’t be controlled. If the measures to restrict areas and control the spread aren’t in parallel with vaccinations, if people only think it’s all good now after getting a jab, I think this is dangerous,’ Dr Prasit explained. ‘If there is a new outbreak in Phuket, I think it would make the economy even worse.’
14 days quarantine for all tourists should be kept in place until a nationwide vaccination rate of 50% is achieved says top Siriraj Hospital medical expert
Dr Prasit insists that the two-week quarantine requirement for all foreign tourist arrivals should be kept in place.
It is understood there are still discussions on the regulatory framework governing public control measures for foreigners on the holiday island even if the promised reopening goes ahead without quarantine
These measures would limit visitor movements within Phuket in addition to the recent extension of the mandatory stay on the island from 7 to 14 days before being allowed travel to other parts of the kingdom in addition to the 3 swab tests during that period.
Next to be reviewed by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Friday next
Minister of Public Health Anutin told reporters on Monday that the final decision on whether Phuket will reopen on July 1st now rests with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) when it meets next Friday although he did indicate confidence that this would happen.
‘The CCSA will finally approve the proposal this Friday, including a decision to open it for foreign tourists on July 1st,’ Minister Anutin disclosed. ‘Currently, 60% of the targeted population to get the vaccine is already complete, with 330,000 people. The province will reach its target later this month.’
It is expected the ultimate decision will then be for the Thai cabinet to make.