Phuket’s Ridiculous Re-Opening Plan Postponed (Scrapped) After Renewed Covid Concerns

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Thailand had planned to re-open their tourism industry under a project they named “Safe & Seal” from October 1, 2020 starting with Phuket but these plans have now (once again) been scrapped as we expected.

A recent virus scare of one person in Bangkok has renewed concerns in Thailand if this plan is really a good idea and likely used as an excuse to postpone the Phuket project which was destined to fail from the beginning.

I first wrote about this plan two weeks ago when officials were touting this as the savior of tourism in Thailand but I called this idea a folly straight away, based on the parameters of the trips and especially the costs associated with it.

The campaign planned to revive tourism from international provinces or cities the authorities consider “low-risk” for Covid-19 and the core of this plan (dream) was to to reserve 1-2 km of beach space near designated state quarantine locations.

Semi-Captive tourists would then be able to leave their quarantine hotel to spend time at the beach while technically still observing the mandatory 14 day quarantine requirement. What could possibly go wrong?

All this at a cost of several thousand dollars plus flight on Thai Airways which has been tasked to develop a plan to exclusively serve Thailand for these incoming tourists.

The Bangkok Post reported today that the project is off the table for now, likely forever.

The government’s plan to reopen the resort island of Phuket as a model to welcome back foreign visitors has hit a snag after the country last week saw the first case of local Covid-19 infection in more than three months.

Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), said the launch of the so-called “Phuket model” scheduled for next month as part of efforts to revive the local economy, is likely to be pushed back.

He said TAT officials are visiting Phuket this long weekend to discuss disease control measures with business operators, adding the proposed model to bring back foreign tourists may have to be adjusted if the country faces a second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Under the Phuket model, floated by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, about 200 visitors from Australia and New Zealand will be allowed in. However, they must first test negative for the virus in their country of origin and stay in quarantine for 14 days at designated places in Phuket.

The visitors can travel throughout the province if they test negative for Covid-19. But if they want to visit other provinces, they will have to stay in quarantine in their respective provinces for another seven days. …

Australia has just extended the travel restrictions on their own nationals until the end of the year and Australians need to provide a specific reason why they need to leave the country in order to get an authorization. Tourism isn’t one of the eligible categories. Would New Zealander’s really fly all the way to Phuket in order to spend nearly NZ$10,000 on a “vacation” under lock and key? Totally out of touch with reality.

To provide a bit of background here, this week a drug offender was arrested in Bangkok and upon booking process at the jail apparently tested positive for Covid-19. He didn’t have contact with the prison population and so far nobody else has tested positive and the government has since not provided any update on further results. They did however trace a group of roughly 700 people he had some sort of contact with and involuntarily isolated many of them at local hospitals – just in case.

Considering the individual is a drug offender and many drugs in Thailand come illegally across the border from Myanmar that might very well be the source. Unlikely that the individual will voluntarily divulge his drug related contacts as drug offenses can carry the death penalty in Thailand.

The country is hell bound on this magic number of zero infections. While that sounds alluring even to myself currently living in the Kingdom, it’s unrealistic to believe this can be upkept forever. What it does though is it creates a hypersensitivity among the government and population for anything Covid related and as such, as much as the economy is hurting, most really don’t support opening the borders to foreigners.

There is no way the government, health officials and especially the locals will agree to let foreigners mingle at local beaches while undergoing a pro forma quarantine that really isn’t one. Especially while at the same time returning Thais are being locked away for two weeks at a dingy hotel.

The number of tourists that could be lured back through such a scheme is rather small and wouldn’t salvage much of the tourism industry. Many of those who complete their Thailand trip and return home would then face another scrutiny, be it further tests or quarantine.

Conclusion

At this point I’m pretty much convinced the officials themselves don’t believe in any of their own plans but in order to justify the existence and budget of their respective departments they chew out these proposals on a monthly basis. It’s my firm belief that the Phuket plan will never materialize in the way it was designed for October 1st. Nobody will spend a boatload of money to be a semi-prisoner at a Phuket hotel.

Numerous proposals of this nature have already been dismissed and right now there are several things on the plate of the Thai government.

There is also the visa amnesty for foreigners that is scheduled to end on September 26, 2020 unless the cabinet decides to extend it again or orders the immigration department to allow foreign tourists to apply for proper extensions without the red tape currently required. There are many with expired tourist visas or exempt stamps who would continue to stay and spend money here. On the face of it it seems crazy that the government wants to expel these people who verifiably have no health risk but work on plans to quarantine new tourists while the economy is ailing.

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