Phuket bans domestic travellers as Covid-19 cases surge

By BERNAMA / Pic by AFP

BANGKOK, July 30 (Bernama) — Thailand’s resort island of Phuket will ban domestic travellers from other provinces in the kingdom from 3-16 Aug, to curb further spread of COVID-19.

However, the new provincial order signed by Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew stated the directive has no effect on international travellers flying into the island under the “Phuket Sandbox” initiative.

Director of News Division from the Department of Information of Foreign Affairs Ministry Pensom Lertsithichai said domestic travellers from other provinces, either by air, sea and land would be banned from entering.

However, she said those transporting essential goods, agricultural products, medical supplies as well as students would be allowed to enter the island and they have to be fully vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19.

The Department of Disease Control (DDC) would closely monitor the COVID-19 situation in Phuket, Pensom said at COVID-19 briefing here today.

“We hope these measures will help to contain further outbreak in the island,” she said.

Meanwhile, Narong also ordered closure of premises and venues deemed risky to curb further transmission including the snooker, billiard bar or pool table shops and outlets, all martial arts schools and boxing schools, gaming centres, swimming pools from today to August 1.

Earlier this week, he also ordered all local education institutions remain closed until August 16 besides shopping malls and sports venues closed until August 2. There is a ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people imposed since Tuesday.

In bid to revive its tourism industry hit hard by COVID-19 outbreak, Thailand launched “Phuket Sandbox” where starting July 1 foreign travellers from low and medium COVID-19 risk countries could enter the island after testing negative upon arrival.

Besides that, the fully vaccinated travellers no longer need to undergo a 14-day compulsory quarantine but have to remain on the island for two weeks before travelling to other provinces in the kingdom.

Since Phuket reopened its doors on July 1, a total of 12,599 foreign travellers entered the island where 30 fully vaccinated arrivals have been tested positive for COVID-19 as of July 29. A total of 298,858 rooms nights have been booked up until September.

Meanwhile, Department of Disease Control (DDC) Director-General Kajornsak Kaewjaras said the department will monitor the COVID-19 situation in the island for two-week.

He said there has been nine active clusters in Phuket and health authorities have tracked down all infected persons.

“We need another two weeks to assess the situation and look at the number of patients before deciding whether the scheme should carry on,” he was quoted saying by Bangkok Post.

The “Phuket Sandbox” risks suspension if number of COVID-19 cases exced the government-set threshold of 90 cases per week.

Local media reported that the increase of COVID-19 cases has been attributed to the people entering the island to seek jobs since the island opened for business.