Phuket draws tourists despite rising Covid Cases

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While the vaccination drives are yet to pick up pace in the majority of the countries, the tourist season has arrived. But unlike the predecessors, this time around, as lockdowns are lifting globally, a wave of tourists are swarming into exotics locations to find respite after being locked within four walls for more than almost two years. Thailand’s Phuket faces the consequences of opening prematurely to welcome overseas tourists as the island reported its first international COVID-19 case on July 7

WHAT HAPPENED IN PHUKET?

On July 8, Thailand’s health ministry proposed bringing out stricter restrictions and a new set of travel guidelines, especially in the hotspots, in response to a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases.

The country reported record 75 daily deaths as infections spread again. The daily caseload has reportedly increased tenfold compared to the time it was yet to open for tourists. Along with 75 deaths, a record number of daily cases were observed, as 7,058 reported on Thursday alone.

This has led to the Phuket province recording its first overseas COVID-19 case on Tuesday. According to Phuket’s Public Health Office, the patient is a male travelling from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under the Sandbox scheme.

According to Mr Koosak, who is the chief of the Public Health Office, “The man took a COVID-19 test upon arrival as required by Phuket’s disease control measures, and the result was positive on Monday night.

In response, the health officials informed the hotel manager and the patient, who was not allowed to leave his hotel room until he was taken for medical treatment at a hospital” He added, “As for people who travelled with him, they will be taken into ALQ if they’re high-risk close contacts.”Apart from this, another Thai local has been identified as the second patient of the Southern province.

This has placed a looming question mark on Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s resolution of a full reopening of the country in a matter of 100 days and has put a pause to any further plans of reopening the country’s other touristic hotspots for travellers.

SANDBOX TOURISM SCHEME

Not a week ago, the Thai authorities had decided to open its resort island of Phuket to attract tourists. This decision was made to curb Thailand’s economy, which like the rest of the world, got maimed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

As tourism constitutes one-fifth of the country’s economy, it was one of the first moves taken by the government to restore order.

Phuket was decided as the country’s first province to open up to tourists that too without any quarantining imposition. The kingdom state rolled out this plan under the ambitious tourism mode called Phuket Sandbox. Through this scheme, fully vaccinated travellers from overseas can visit Phuket for vacation.

However, they must undergo three COVID-19 tests within their first two weeks at the island- the first one on arrival, followed by a second test by the end of their first week and finally, the last test on the second week. It was under this programme that Phuket welcomed 2,399 tourists in the first week of July.

THAILAND’S STATUS QUO ON PANDEMIC HANDLING

According to the Nikkei Asia Covid-19 recovery index, Thailand currently stands at nearly the bottom of the rankings, which assesses countries’ COVID-19 handling. Numbered at 118 out of 120, Thailand, once counted amongst the top countries in the same list, has faltered down to the third last position.

As the nation’s still grappling with the new Delta and Alpha variants of the virus and paving through a receded vaccination drive of AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac, this surge in cases comes as an absolute shocker to the kingdom nation.

Closer home, we have seen the horrendous pictures of hill stations like Manali and Mussourie hogged with crowds. We need to learn the lesson from Thailand’s mistakes of rushing the unlock process. After all, a country like India cannot afford to face another wave that is still picking up her broken pieces from the deadly second wave.

Roopashi Semalty
Roopashi Semalty
A first year journalism student from University of Delhi who is still trying to grasp the nitty-gritties of writing. Originally a Science background student, who found her calling in the world of journalism. A connoisseur of words and a big-time bibliophile who finds respite in the world of fiction. Believes to be a pop culture know-it-all. Finds solace in the Sunday edition newspapers and ranting about her least favourite characters on fandom forums. Has a knack for learning new languages. Can interest people with a wry sense of humour and super-frequent wordplays. Passionate about anything that provides a sense of escapism.

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