Rayong tourism industry dismayed by Egyptian saga
The tourism sector in Rayong has expressed concerns that the case of an Egyptian soldier who tested positive for Covid-19 will further damage their businesses and are urging authorities to help restore public confidence.
Chayut Chaitrakulthong, chairman of the tourism business operators in the eastern province, said he feared the fresh case would drive tourists away just as local businesses were starting to recover after the easing of lockdown measures on July 1.
However, he said exactly how much people's confidence was affected depended on how the provincial authorities handled the issue which some observers say has exposed lax health screening.
Mr Chayut was speaking after the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) reported the movements of an Egyptian soldier who stayed in Rayong and then tested positive for the coronavirus.
The soldier visited a number of places, including shopping centres, during his stay in the province and also took a one-day trip to China. He returned to Egypt on Saturday and a test result confirming the infection came back from the lab on Sunday.
Mr Chayut said tourism operators in the province had only recently launched a new advertising campaign and they were shocked by the news.
"We are bracing for the impact," he said. "Businesses had just started picking up and were seeing solid bookings. We don't expect the business to fully recover in the 'new normal' but we are hoping the province will resolve the situation before the next long weekend."
Mr Chayut said Rayong had had no local cases for almost two months and he doubted people were paying serious attention to the Thai Chana app, which is being promoted as part of the measures to prevent a fresh outbreak, despite the government's efforts.
Rayong governor Surasak Charoensirichote said on Monday the hotel in question had been ordered to shut. Its 12 hotel staff had been quarantined and would be tested for Covid-19.
He said health authorities were also checking all venues visited by the Egyptian soldier and others in his delegation during their stay in Rayong and necessary appropriate steps would be taken.
Chaisit Thepchatree, director of Rayong Hospital, admitted that the public was anxious about a new outbreak of the virus following the report about the Egyptian solider.
While it has not been confirmed which malls the Egyptian soldier visited, Rayong public health office late on Monday announced that a free, royally sponsored Covid-19 test would be available at Central Rayong and Passione Shopping Destination shopping centres from 11am to 3pm on Tuesday.