Thai doctor warns against reopening Phuket too soon

A deserted Bangla Road in Patong, Phuket, Thailand. - Bloomberg

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN): Prof Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of Mahidol Universitys Faculty of Medicine, said on Tuesday (June 15) that the reopening of Phuket under the tourism sandbox scheme from July 1 could make the province vulnerable to the spread of mutated Covid-19 variants.

Under the scheme, foreign tourists who can verify they have been inoculated against Covid-19 and test negative can fly directly into Phuket and move around freely without having to quarantine. A

fter staying in Phuket for 14 days and still testing negative, the tourists can then travel to other provinces in Thailand.

“Personally I think it is too soon to open the country to foreign tourists as the vaccines that have been provided to locals cannot protect against every kind of virus variant, ” he warned.

“Furthermore, the province’s disease control measures are not strict or comprehensive enough to contain the virus should a new wave emerge.”

According to the Public Health Ministry, about 400, 000 Phuket locals or 60 per cent of the island population have been vaccinated against Covid-19 so far.

“Take the UK for example. They opened the country and now their infection rate has climbed with new variants being discovered in the country, ” he said.

“The 14-day mandatory stay in Phuket might not be long enough as we do not know what the new variants are capable of. Some countries, such as China, have even increased the quarantine period to 21 days.

"However, extending this period could result in [more] tourists changing their minds or not visiting Phuket at all, which defeats the purpose of the campaign, ” Prasit said. - The Nation/Asia News Network

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