The governor of Phuket province in Thailand has said the island will remain open to tourists as the economy needs to be boosted
Phuket will remain open to tourists despite a surge in new Covid-19 infestations, Narong Wunsu said Wednesday, allaying fears of another possible closure of business operators that have just started generating revenue from tourism.
The province will continue to welcome tourists as part of its “Phuket Sandbox” tourism promotion programme to maintain a balance between controlling Covid-19 and boosting the economy.
“As we seek to contain Covid-19 while stimulating the economy, we have received requests not to close the island as it will inevitably affect the province’s economy again,” he said.
He said a total of 10’132 foreign visitors arrived in Phuket this past weekend, an increase of about 500 per day in the early stages of the sandbox programme.
The governor said that as Phuket receives and checks 3,000 to 5,000 foreign tourists daily for Covid-19 infection, the number of cases on the island has increased significantly. On average, 30 to 50 tourists are tested positive for Covid-19 every day.
The rate of Covid-19 infection is increasing among both Thais and foreigners in Phuket compared to what was seen a couple of weeks ago, said Dr Koosak Kukiatkul, provincial chief medical officer of health. He said the total number of new cases of Covid-19 infection had risen from 30-40 cases a day to more than 120 a day.
Phuket recorded 215 new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, the highest daily rate in a month, Kukiatkul said. He said most of these infections were visitors arriving as part of the Phuket Sandbox programme, many of whom had mild symptoms of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The infection rate among Phuket Sandbox tourists was initially around 0.3 per cent, but then rose to 0.5 per cent as the number of foreign tourists increased from 500 to 4,000 a day, Dr Kukiatkul said.
Phuket now needs to prepare 1,000 hotel rooms and hotel isolation services to accommodate more patients, he said. Currently, there are about 66 hotels registered in the province that are ready to serve either as so-called hospital hotels or as hotel isolation units for infected people with mild to moderate symptoms.
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