Phuket airport reopening plan blocked

Phuket airport reopening plan blocked

CCSA overrules aviation regulator, citing lingering virus concerns

Staff mark safe spots for travellers at Phuket airport on Friday, just a few hours before the plan to resume service on Saturday was suddenly cancelled. (Photo from Phuket airport Facebook account)
Staff mark safe spots for travellers at Phuket airport on Friday, just a few hours before the plan to resume service on Saturday was suddenly cancelled. (Photo from Phuket airport Facebook account)

The government’s coronavirus watchdog has overruled aviation regulators who had earlier given the Phuket airport permission to reopen on Saturday.

The unexpected move came less than 24 hours before the airport was due to begin welcoming the first inbound flights in nearly six weeks by three Thai domestic carriers.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand on Thursday gave the airport clearance to resume operating after it had been closed since April 3 to keep Covid-19 in check

But on Friday, it issued another announcement to void the previous one, in line with what it said was a recommendation by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

Even though the spread of the virus on the holiday island appeared to be under control, authorities were concerned that an influx of visitors could increase the risk and place more stress on the island's health system.

Phuket has had no new confirmed cases of Covid-19 since Monday. But its 224 cases to date are the highest in the country outside Bangkok, which has 1,558.

Airport officials had sprayed disinfectant and cleaned the airport since Thursday in preparation for planes to land and take off again. It had warned all passengers to wear face masks when they use the airport.

Phuket airport officials on Friday posted a Facebook message apologising for the change of plan.


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