Samui Plus programme teeters on brink

Samui Plus programme teeters on brink

Visitors arrive at Samui airport on July 15, when the island reopened to foreign tourists. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan)
Visitors arrive at Samui airport on July 15, when the island reopened to foreign tourists. (Photo: Supapong Chaolan)

The Samui Plus scheme risks cancellation if infections double from the current rate, with the planned 7+7 island extension already postponed until the situation improves, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn said after a discussion with Koh Samui office and Surat Thani province on Thursday the reopening plan is still on, despite a record high in new infections.

However, if the infection rate grows to twice the current number of 22 cases in the next 1-2 days, the postponement or termination of the Samui Plus model will be considered, he said.

The plan for tourists to island-hop after a seven-day stay in Phuket, only recently approved, has already been put off due to the recent spread of the virus, said Mr Yuthasak.

Under the Samui Plus rules, if there are more than 20 Covid-19 cases logged at hospitals over two weeks, tourists have to stay in area quarantine facilities.

Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, president of the Tourism Association of Koh Samui, said there are no severe Covid-19 cases on the island at the moment, but the island must prepare more beds to help with hospital caseloads.

Hotels are converting into "hospitels" with more than 200 beds for patients with mild symptoms.

If total cases at hospitals reach 40 within two weeks, the Covid-19 centre of Koh Samui plans to implement more stringent measures, or it could revoke the whole plan, said Mr Ratchaporn.

The island is conducting a search for people who visited Speedy Lounge & Bar on Lamai beach and Black Bamboo Club, which are linked to one of the new Covid-19 patients. He said local authorities are taking more decisive action against businesses that violate the regulations, especially bars and pubs.

“The plan is still to reopen because most new cases were locals, not foreign travellers,” Mr Ratchaporn said.

The situation requires close monitoring, said Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya, deputy governor of marketing for Asia and South Pacific at TAT.

Koh Samui tightened measures for domestic arrivals from dark red and red zones, requiring negative Covid-19 test results no more than 72 hours old, starting on July 26, even among the vaccinated. Only one foreign visitor tested positive out of 78 total arrivals on the island.

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