Phuket reports first overseas visitor with COVID-19 after reopening without quarantine requirements
BANGKOK: Thailand’s popular resort island Phuket reported its first COVID-19 case from overseas on Wednesday (Jul 7) after reopening to international tourism last week.
The patient is a male traveller from the United Arab Emirates, who arrived in the southern province on Tuesday, according to Mr Koosak Kookiatkul, chief of Phuket’s public health office.
“We have two new patients,” he said during a Facebook live broadcast by the Phuket Public Relations Office on Wednesday.
“One of them is Thai and the other is a case we wished we wouldn’t have because the patient is a traveller from the Phuket Sandbox tourism scheme, who arrived recently.”
According to Mr Koosak, 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, he added, 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.
“As for people who travelled with him, they will be taken into ALQ if they’re high-risk close contacts,” Mr Koosak said, referring to Alternative Local State Quarantine at government-approved hotels in the province.
According to the Phuket Public Relations Office, the patient travelled from Dubai to Phuket on Emirates flight EK378, which carried 14 passengers. Two drivers who were in contact with this group of visitors and some hotel employees have already entered the disease control process.
Phuket reopened to international travellers on Jul 1 after COVID-19 halted arrivals for more than a year. Visitors from overseas are no longer required to undergo any quarantine if they have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in their country for at least 14 days and test negative upon arrival.
However, they are required to wait for the result in their hotel room. If it is positive, they will be transferred to healthcare facilities for treatment.
Phuket became the first province in Thailand to welcome back international tourists without quarantine requirements. This is part of an experimental tourism model called Phuket Sandbox, designed to help the economy recover from the pandemic.
Since its reopening, 2,113 travellers have entered Phuket from overseas and only one person has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Phuket governor Narong Woonsiew.
“This was detected during our first procedure, which means as soon as he arrived at the airport, we carried out the test to find the disease and transferred him to the hotel, where he was required to wait,” Mr Narong said.
“Once we detected the virus, there is a procedure to give him treatments at a hospital. As for those who travelled with him, they have to stay at ALQ hotels for 14 days. These are normal measures. We also get to test the system with our first (overseas) patient to see how well it works,” he added.
According to Phuket’s health chief Mr Koosak, the province has 299 rooms for alternative local state quarantine and 294 people are currently using them. As of Tuesday night, there were 31 rooms available. The province has prepared more rooms in case they are needed in the future.
Besides being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, overseas travellers who visit Phuket through the Phuket Sandbox programme are also required to take three COVID-19 tests – first upon arrival, another one a week later and the last one near the end of their second week.
They also have to download the mobile applications ThailandPlus and MorChana for tracking purposes during their stay.