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Phuket’s tourism representatives petition PM over ban on local vaccine purchase

Maya Taylor

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Phuket’s tourism representatives petition PM over ban on local vaccine purchase | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Dive Magazine

Representatives from various tourism associations on the southern island of Phuket have reacted with dismay to a government ban on local administrations and the private sector purchasing Covid-19 vaccines. In January, the Public Health Minister stated that the government was not opposed to local authorities purchasing their own vaccine supplies, provided the jabs had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, Anutin Charnvirakul now appears to have done a U-turn, declaring that such purchases are not authorised. His statement comes amid growing criticism of the pace of the government’s own vaccine rollout.

The announcement has frustrated several tourism groups in Phuket, who had been hoping to fund the vaccination of 70% of the island’s population with a view to achieving herd immunity and being able to re-open to international tourism from October 1. They have voiced their dismay in a letter to the PM, in which they petition for the ban to be reversed.

“The Phuket economy is heavily dependent on tourism, accounting for 94% of provincial income. Almost 8 months without inbound and domestic flights last year made all stakeholders suffer from a lack of cash, mounting debts, and increasing lawsuits regarding financial disputes.”

The letter goes on to point out that the resurgence of Covid-19 late last year has all but destroyed what was left of the tourism sector on the island. The Bangkok Post reports that a survey carried out by the Prince of Songkla University reveals that per capita income in Phuket plummeted between February and September, 2020. And while the national poverty threshold was at 3,044 baht a month for that period, in Phuket, the average monthly income was just 1,984 baht.

14 associations, including the Federation of Thai Industries in Phuket and the Phuket Chamber of Commerce have signed the letter. Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi from the Thai Hotels Association says while hotel revenue improved slightly this month, the sector continues to struggle. Over 100 hotel workers lost their jobs this week as hotels could not afford to retain them. She points out that while provinces within driving distance of Bangkok may see an uptick in tourism during the Chinese New Year holiday, places like Phuket and Chiang Mai continue to suffer due to infrequent flights.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Avatar

    David cohen

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 11:46 am

    That will begin to reduce the prices of quarantine hotels

  2. Avatar

    Issan John

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 12:15 pm

    After a seriously world beating year controlling the spread of the virus, which should have been the hard part, Thailand seems to have completely stuffed up buying the vaccines, which should have been the easy part – even the UK’s clowns managed it.

    I’m not so sure, though, that Anutin has “done a U-turn”.

    On 13 Jan he was reported as saying that state agencies (provincial authorities) could use state funds to buy vaccines – in parallel with the country-wide roll out that seems a win-win.

    What the tourist groups are asking for, though, is very different – that individuals (“employees”) are allowed to buy vaccines from hospitals themselves, and hospitals allowed to sell them.

    That’s simply queue jumping.

    Those with the money would get vaccinated first, whilst those without (including the most likely to catch and transmit the virus, such as migrant workers) would be vaccinated last, with front line hospital staff pushed down the queue.

    Queue jumping based solely on those with the money taking priority can’t be right.

  3. Avatar

    EdwardV

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    Why would you ban Phuket from buying approved doses if they can? A big if for sure, but it’s not like they wouldn’t be used on Thai citizens anyway.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 12:37 pm

      Because “Phuket” isn’t buying them.

      The reported plan (reported here!) from the various tourist organisations was for “employees” to buy vaccinations themselves – that’s simply allowing anyone with the money to jump the queue to buy from a limited supply, pushing everyone else further down the queue.

      How can that be either fair or in the country’s best interests?

      • Avatar

        EdwardV

        Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 12:50 pm

        I’m not in favor of line jumping that’s for sure. If the business buy the doses and give them to the citizens to that’s one thing. If they make the employees buy them it’s another. That said the key to the plan was to vaccinate 70% of the entire Phuket population. Without that it doesn’t work. So how does that work if it’s only the employees buying the doses? Also they can’t buy the doses already under contract with Thailand, so it doesn’t hurt the country. Right?

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 1:11 pm

          Agreed absolutely, 100%, Ed V.

          The “plan” once you look into it and scratch the surface just doesn’t add up.

          It’s not the provincial authorities buying the vaccine, or even the tourist organisations, but the tourist organisations telling the employees to buy them.

          … and they can’t buy from private hospitals as private hospitals can’t jump the queue, so the only vaccines available are from the government’s supply – if any.

          It doesn’t make the vaccine rollout any better (or any worse), but it can’t achieve anything apart from making it LOOK as if the tourist organisations are doing something when there’s simply nothing they can do – it’s all down to the vaccine rollout, whenever that is.

      • Avatar

        Joe

        Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 8:30 pm

        Issan John now has an imaginary little friend called Edwardv, how pathetic, by the way isaan John you are so full of it, of course it’s businesses buying the vaccines for their employees and you know it, stop playing these silly word games, again you are defending the indefensible ie this regime.

        • Avatar

          Issan John

          Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 11:26 pm

          Oh dear. 😮

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 12:51 pm

      As you may have missed it in another article here, Ed V, from Khun Bhumikitti:

      “The Phuket private sector has agreed that employees, especially in the tourism sector, will pay for vaccines themselves.”

      • Avatar

        EdwardV

        Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 1:21 pm

        Yeah I had missed that, thanks. While I don’t think it’s kosher, employers often impose requirements and obligations as a condition of employment. Many times that requires a cost. I was forced to join the union way back when and the fee was exorbitant. I also had to purchase certain gear all at my expense. If a hotel says we will supply the vaccine but you need to reimburse for the cost to work there, while not nice I also don’t think it’s over the line. Still what about everyone else? 70% of Phuket can’t all work for large enough businesses that could force all their employees to vaccinate? What about those who choose to not agree, or can’t afford it? For the plan to work the majority of the vaccine has to be free at the very least. Oh well it was a goofy idea from the get go anyway.

    • Avatar

      Molly

      Friday, February 12, 2021 at 4:47 am

      Perhaps the gov knows how potentially lethal the vaccines presently out there are and is concerned about that hence the plan to produce local vaccines.

      • Avatar

        Issan John

        Friday, February 12, 2021 at 9:50 am

        So perhaps we’re lucky we’ve got such a clever government unlike so many others who aren’t as concerned, then Manu? 😮 😮 😮

  4. Avatar

    Issan John

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    And while the Thaiger is correct that the “Bangkok Post reports that a survey carried out by the Prince of Songkla University reveals that per capita income in Phuket plummeted between February and September, 2020. And while the national poverty threshold was at 3,044 baht a month for that period, in Phuket, the average monthly income was just 1,984 baht” I simply don’t believe it.

    There’s no trace of any such survey reported anywhere, nothing to support it from the ONS, and it’s just not credible that for the past year “the average monthly income was just 1,984 baht” in Phuket.

    That’s an “average” income of only 65 baht per day for a year, so some would have had to have more (considerably more, even if you only look at the public sector) and some less.

    It’s simply not possible.

    • Avatar

      London Al

      Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 8:23 pm

      Crazy how people living in a country with so few cases and deaths are suffering so badly, I’m actually surprised it’s as much as 1,984 baht, in Phuket no tourists equals no revenue equals no jobs, I’m not sure if there are government handouts but I doubt they’re enough to pay the rent, it’s down to helping each other which the Thais are very good at but even that can only last so long.

  5. Avatar

    Mister Stretch

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    If the locally produced vaccine was available, I am sure the government would let local municipalities and private concerns buy ALL they wanted.

    It’s about in whose pocket the money ultimately winds up.

  6. Avatar

    Stardust

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 10:05 pm

    @Issan JohnSame nonsense and spreading fake news like in all comments!Issan John has no glue about the economic situation in Phuket that the whole supply chain like farmers etc etc also cannot sell their products to the hotels, restaurants etc.

  7. Avatar

    Issan John

    Thursday, February 11, 2021 at 11:30 pm

    Aaah …. I’ve finally understood why you keep saying “no glue” 😮

    You just can’t make this stuff up 🙂

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thai Health Minister to chair panel on travel bubbles, vaccine passports

Maya Taylor

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Thai Health Minister to chair panel on travel bubbles, vaccine passports | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Thailand’s Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, will chair a meeting on Monday, in which a vaccine passport scheme and potential travel bubbles will be discussed. Anutin says those who’ve been inoculated against Covid-19 will be issued with a book to confirm their vaccination. It’s hoped this will make international travel easier, as well as boosting the public’s confidence and helping life return to some kind of normality.

“The Public Health Ministry is making preparations to bring life back to normal, restore businesses and revive the Thai economy.”

A number of groups and industry representatives have added their voices to growing calls for a vaccine passport policy. The Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking is urging the government to implement the scheme without further delay, while also calling for private companies in Thailand to be allowed purchase and distribute vaccines.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand is also pushing for a vaccine passport policy, while the Tourism Ministry has urged the Health Ministry to approve one. Meanwhile the PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha has asked the Foreign Ministry to carry out a study on vaccine passports, adding that the jury is still out as to their effectiveness. They also have their critics, primarily among rights’ groups and doctors, who argue that there is not yet enough evidence that vaccination prevents transmission.

At Monday’s meeting of the National Communicable Diseases Committee, the Anutin-led panel will also discuss the idea of travel bubbles. Thailand has been considering entering into reciprocal travel arrangements with countries with a high take-up of Covid-19 vaccines.

Meanwhile, Anutin says the public must continue with the practice of mask-wearing, noting that the number of Thais doing so has recently slipped. He says that recent data shows the number of people wearing masks has dropped below 80%, compared to 90% last month.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Hospital in northern Thailand closes to visitors after 2 patients test positive for Covid-19

Maya Taylor

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Hospital in northern Thailand closes to visitors after 2 patients test positive for Covid-19 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thailand Medical News

A hospital in the northern province of Tak has had to shut its doors to visitors after 2 patients treated at the facility subsequently tested positive for Covid-19. Nation Thailand reports that Mae Sot Hospital is now closed to visitors until Monday.

It’s understood that 19 staff members have had contact with 2 patients who tested positive for the virus. Hospital director Thawatchai Setsuppana says the closure is to facilitate a deep clean of the facility and confirmed that a number of medical workers are self-isolating.

“3 doctors, 11 nurses and 5 patient assistants have been ordered to undergo 14-day quarantine.”

Officials are now questioning both patients, in an effort to trace others who may have had contact with them. Tak province is on the border with Myanmar, which has had 142,000 cases of the virus, with 3,200 deaths.

Meanwhile, in the northern province of Sukothai, the provincial Public Health Office has confirmed that a Thai national who returned from working at a casino in Myanmar has also tested positive for Covid-19. It’s understood the woman developed symptoms prior to entering Thailand at the border town of Mae Sot on March 1, before taking a bus to her home in order to attend her grandfather’s funeral.

The provincial health office has issued a statement to confirm the timeline of the woman’s movements. It’s understood 17 people had contact with the woman, with 7 of those considered “high-risk”.

“On March 2, she took a Covid-19 test at Sukhothai Hospital and went shopping in Muang district before heading home. She was admitted to Ban Dan Lan Hoi Hospital on March 3 after her test came back positive.”

It is unclear how the woman managed to evade the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Border officials have stepped up patrols in recent weeks, amid fears that Burmese nationals fleeing the violence in Myanmar may attempt to cross illegally into Thailand, bypassing health checks and quarantine.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Tourism

Thailand to introduce “area quarantine” for international visitors from April

Maya Taylor

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Thailand to introduce “area quarantine” for international visitors from April | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Andreas M on Unsplash

From next month, foreign visitors to the Kingdom will be able to experience the delights of “area quarantine”, after the government confirmed the scheme for 5 provinces. Following a meeting with the Public Health Ministry, the Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn confirmed that Phuket, Krabi, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (Pattaya), and Surat Thani (Koh Samui and Koh Pha-ngan) have been chosen to pilot the scheme.

Foreign tourists opting for area quarantine will be required to remain in their hotel rooms for the first 3 days of their stay. They will be tested for Covid-19 and, if negative after 3 days, will be allowed to leave their room and roam freely around the resort for the remainder of their 14-day quarantine. At the end of the 14-day period, they will once again be tested for the virus and, if negative, allowed to travel around the quarantine area.

In order to avail of the scheme, tourists will still need to fulfil the other requirements for travel, including obtaining a Certificate of Entry, a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to travel, and adequate health insurance. Nation Thailand reports that the area quarantine plan will be run by 29 travel agencies, under TAT supervision.

The area quarantine scheme comes as the TAT hails the success of the first “golf quarantine” scheme, which operates in a similar manner. Travellers from countries considered “low-risk” for Covid-19 can come to Thailand for a golf holiday at approved golf resorts in the Kingdom. Conditions are similar to those attached to area quarantine, with the golfers having to spend the first 3 days in their room, test negative for the virus, and then enjoy free rein of the resort, with a few rounds of golf thrown in.

Thailand’s economy has been decimated by the fallout from the pandemic, in particular the loss of international tourism. The current mandatory 14-day quarantine period is seen as the biggest hurdle to overcome in order to re-ignite the sector. In 2019, international tourism contributed 2 trillion baht out of a total 3.01 trillion baht tourism trade. In the same year, tourism made up 17% of Thailand’s GDP.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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