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Thailand Blaming Phuket Tourists as Daily Covid-19 Cases Top 10,000 Again

Phuket International Airport staff and medical personnel wear personal protective equipment as they help travelers entering Phuket.
Phuket International Airport staff and medical personnel wear personal protective equipment as they help travelers entering Phuket.

Thailand again crossed the 10,000-mark for new daily coronavirus cases on Saturday, but the government spent its time blaming tourists arriving in Phuket.

A week of steady increases finally pushed Thailand over the 10,000 mark for the first time in months, with 10,490 confirmed cases reported. Antigen tests were not included. The Public Health Ministry reported 21 deaths.

It is true that the number of tourists who test positive for Covid-19 when arriving in the Phuket “sandbox” has jumped more than tenfold since November, when only 0.13% of arrivals tested positive. In December that rose to 0.45% and leaped to 3.73% in January.

In February, however, the rate hurdled again to 4.74%. However, only 0.74% of the positive cases were “Test & Go” arrivals, while 5.55% were sandboxers. Those required to stay inside their quarantine hotels for seven days tested positive at the rate of 2.69%.

Phuket Deputy Gov. Pichet Panawong on Friday claimed some visitors had not passed the Thailand Pass registration process or had not undergone RT-PCR tests. Some visitors forged their RT-PCR test certificates or conducted only antigen tests.

He said that from Nov. 1 to Feb 1, 4,369 Covid-19 cases were found among visitors who entered Phuket through the two schemes. On Friday alone, 172 of 10,593 – 1.6% – of arrivals in Phuket tested positive for Covid-19.

Nationwide, 217 positive cases were found among arriving tourists. It’s notable that 101 of those were on flights from Russia. German flights were in second place with only 12 cases.

Pichit asked the operations unit of the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration to urge airlines to strictly require their passengers follow disease-control measures before boarding flights to Thailand.

From July 1 to Feb. 1, 272,621 tourists arrived in Phuket via the sandbox entry scheme. Each foreign tourist stayed eight nights and spent 55,000 baht per trip on average.

Phuket recorded direct tourism income worth over 14 billion baht and more than 32 billion baht changed hands thanks to the arrivals.