New surge in Thailand Covid-19 cases may threaten reopening of Phuket to tourists

Phuket is supposed to be a test case for the potential reopening of other tourist areas.

Fiona Tan | April 12, 2021, 05:28 PM

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On Sunday, Apr. 11, Thailand reported a record high of 964 domestically-transmitted Covid-19 cases, according to CNA, which may threaten the nation's plan to reopen Phuket to tourists.

In preparation for Phuket's reopening, its residents have been given priority to receiving their vaccines and more than 930,000 doses will be administered.

However, these plans might be for naught.

Straits Times quoted Jeremy Lim, Director of the Leadership Institute for Global Health Transformation at the National University of Singapore, who called the outbreak "worrying" and thinks it could derail Thailand's plans.

He added that the it would be a public health "disaster" if Thailand pushes through with its plans and becomes a super-spreader site.

B117 variant detected

Following the identification of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant B117 in Thailand on Apr. 7, Thai authorities have imposed measures nation-wide to contain the growing outbreak.

Bangkok saw 236 domestic transmissions in the same day. The capital was the epicentre of a growing outbreak that has affected most of Thailand’s 77 surrounding provinces.

In Bangkok and 40 other provinces, entertainment venues like pubs and bars will remain closed until Apr. 23.

Most transmissions have been traced to these venues where the tests of patrons and workers tested were 48 per cent positive and clusters have emerged.

CNA quoted a senior Thai health official, Sopon Iamsirithaworn, who said during a briefing that the situation is "worrying", but manageable if "everybody helps".

Phuket's future

By reopening Phuket to tourists in July 2021, Thailand hopes to lift its economy out from its worst economic performance in more than two decades.

The resort island is part of a pilot program that, if successful, will expand to include other tourist areas like Koh Samui.

Tourists with vaccinations will have to submit online copies of their vaccination certificates to the nation's foreign ministry before their arrivals. Upon arrival, they will not have to be quarantined.

The country has approved of eight Covid-19 vaccine producers. They are:

  • Sinovac
  • AstraZeneca
  • SK Bioscience
  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Serum Institute of India
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Moderna
  • Sinopharm Group

Tourists without vaccinations, on the other hand, have to be isolated for 10 days. Additionally, their location on the island will be tracked using the Covid-19 tracing mobile application, ThailandPlus.

Tourists from high-risk countries, like South Africa, will be subject to a two-week quarantine.

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Top image from Warinthorn Choo-Singha/FB