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Thai tourism minister re-iterates Phuket’s re-opening on July 1

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The Thai government has again reiterated  its plan to reopen Thailand, specifically Phuket, to foreign tourists and travellers. The southern island province, under the so-called “sandbox” plan, is Thailand’s pilot program for re-opening the country to general travel by July 1… just 6 weeks away.

The government has consistently said that the island’s residents will have to be 70% vaccinated by the start of July before the re-opening can happen. With a current vaccination success of 22%, the island is certainly a long way ahead of the rest of the country but still a long way from its 70% target.

The National News Bureau, the voice of the Thai government, reports that the Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, is “urging” Phuket officials to achieve the vaccination target next month.

The media release says… “The provincial administration and the private sector have developed plans to prepare for the reopening in all respects, while creating more awareness and understanding with the local people. Thus, the reopening will be safe and help drive the economy forward.”

Far from providing “awareness and understanding with the local people”, Phuket officials have been opaque about vaccination roll out programs. The island’s foreign population, estimated to be around 40,000 people, or about 10% of the total population, are none-the-wiser today about their prospects to secure a place in the island’s vaccination queues.

Last week Phuket residents, with a local and current work permit, were told they would be able to register for vaccination. So far that process has not proceeded.

There is also a hard rump of Thais who have stated in numerous polls, that they remain unwilling to accept a vaccination. This includes thousands of candid posts on social media where fear or mistrust over the Sinovac vaccine from China is plain to see. The island also has a large Muslim population where some community leaders have already expressed some doubt over recommending vaccination to their adherents.

But, even today, the second roll out has begun on the island for Thais who registered on the Mor Prom app since the start of May, so things are progressing. An area has been put aside at the island’s Central Floresta shopping centre for registrants.

The ‘reopening to tourists’ on July 1 isn’t without restrictions. People arriving by air will not be open to “countries where COVID-19 is widespread, or tourists without a vaccination certificate”. That list hasn’t been fully detailed although Thailand has a ban on people arriving from at least 4 countries – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

“…visitors who travel by air must provide documents to prove that they have received both Covid-19 vaccine doses. They are required to undergo rapid antigen tests, or reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT- PCR) tests, at their place of origin, and to register on www.gophuget.com and the MorChana application.”

The MorChana app tracks the location of an individual whilst their phone is turned on with the data turned on as well.

Without specifically mentioning quarantine in the media release, it is understood that quarantine will be waived for international travellers who have have been fully vaccinated. Other specific paperwork requirements have not been announced at this stage… with 6 weeks to go to the international re-opening.

For domestic traffic, arriving in Phuket by road (as of May 17), “…people who do not have a certificate of vaccination and have not taken a swab test will have to undergo a 14 day quarantine. If they plan to spend only 3 days in Phuket, they are required to stay in home quarantine for the 3 days.”

Phuket is still experiencing new daily infections

SOURCE: National News Bureau of Thailand

 

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Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2011. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for 42 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program (public radio Australia), presented over 11,000 radio news bulletins, 3,950 in Thailand alone, hosted 1050 daily TV news programs and produced 2,100 videos, TV commercials and documentaries. He also reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue and other major stories in Thailand.

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