After initially planning to start quarantine-free travel on October 1, Phuket is now aiming for a July reopening. During a press conference, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew explained that the island has secured enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to safely protect the local population.
According to Phuket Tourist Association President Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, who cited projections from the Phuket Provincial Health Office, the island has an estimated 310,000 people who need to be vaccinated between now and the reopening. No plans on just how that will happen were revealed.
The announcement came after tour operators told Phuket officials that vaccinated travelers were willing to follow all regulations as long as they did not have to go through a quarantine period.
“We had a meeting with tour operators from Europe. They explained that their customers were willing to do everything, such as swab testing at the airport and installing the tracking app, but they were not okay for vaccinated people to have to face quarantine,” Khun Bhummikitti was quoted as saying by the Phuket News. “In the past, we have to accept that quarantine was necessary, but today if most people are vaccinated we do not have anything to be worried about.”
Earlier in March, Thailand’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports laid out eligibility requirements that it wants implemented before signing off on quarantine-free travel to Phuket. It was originally believed that Phuket wouldn’t meet vaccination levels until October. However, the recent procurement of more doses has sped up the timeline.
That being said, some local officials believe a reopening on July 1 needs to be carefully implemented to ensure the safety of all stakeholders.
“I think the opening in July will be like a soft-opening to encourage us to work on preparation. We may need to start by setting sealed areas, so we can review the strength and the weakness of our plan,” Federation of Phuket Industries President Chernporn Karnjanasaya explained to the newspaper.