Phuket has tightened COVID-19 control measures as the number of new cases there has risen slightly, with the governor saying more restrictions are crucial to keep the situation under control and the Phuket Sandbox tourism reopening programme going.
Aimed at stemming the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, a set of new COVID-19 control measures were rolled out on Monday and were due to take effect from today until 2nd August, said Narong Wunsiew, the provincial governor.
These measures were issued while the number of new COVID-19 cases was about a dozen each day, even though the province had initially planned to step up COVID-19 controls only when the number of new cases reached 90 per week, said Piyaphong Chuwong, a deputy provincial governor.
The curbs include a temporary shutdown of pubs, bars, karaoke shops and other similar types of entertainment venues, said Mr Wunsiew.
Among other measures, the closing time of shopping malls and restaurants serving alcoholic beverages will be 9pm, while partying and drinking alcohol on the beaches, in public parks and other public spaces will be totally banned, he said.
“Violations of these COVID-19 control measures will lead to imprisonment of between one and two years and a fine of between 20,000 baht and 100,000 baht,” he said.
“While the COVID-19 situation in Phuket is still now under control, these measures are primarily aimed at keeping the Phuket Sandbox programme going, improving public safety and preventing the outbreak situation from getting worse,” said Mr Chuwong.
Since its launch on 1st July, the Phuket Sandbox programme has as of Saturday welcomed a total of 7,462 visitors who are estimated to altogether have spent 200 million baht while staying on the reopened resort island, he said.
“If there is no Phuket Sandbox, no new income is generated. Now many people have begun to earn money from things like rent as many hotel staff members have returned to work and need accommodation,” he said.
“Restaurants, food stalls and markets are reopening and are seeing a rise in customers,” he said.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand is trying to convince the rest of the world that although the overall COVID-19 situation in Thailand is worsening, Phuket is still a safe place to visit, he said.
Previously only between 9 and 15 new COVID-19 cases were detected per day, while only two cases were recorded on Sunday, said Dr Chalermpong Sukontapol, director of Vachira Phuket Hospital.
None of the infected people has developed severe symptoms of the disease, he said.
To be precise, he said, so far a total of 16 COVID-19 cases have been detected among visitors under the Phuket Sandbox programme, seven of who were found to have the virus in tests conducted upon arrival, while another traveller developed COVID-19 symptoms about three days later.
Seven other international arrivals tested positive for the virus about six days to a week after arriving, while the final tourist tested positive for the virus on the 13th day of his stay, said the doctor.
All in all, the infection situation among international travellers visiting Phuket under the Phuket Sandbox programme isn’t as worrisome as that of the Thai people visiting the province, he said.