Phuket ups tests on foreign visitors

Phuket ups tests on foreign visitors

Visitors arrive at Phuket airport. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)
Visitors arrive at Phuket airport. (Photo: Achadthaya Chuenniran)

Prompted by large numbers of tourists testing positive for Covid-19 upon arrival, Phuket on Wednesday switched to imposing a repeat RT-PCR Covid-19 test on international tourists arriving under the quarantine-free Test & Go scheme.

Phuket has now issued a new order requiring all Test & Go tourists to undergo a repeat RT-PCR Covid-19 test on the fifth day of their stay in Thailand, in addition to the first test upon arrival, said provincial chief health officer Dr Koosak Kookiatkul on Wednesday.

"This means Test & Go tourists coming to Phuket will have to pay for their two Covid-19 tests and book their hotel rooms on the first and fifth days in advance," Dr Koosak said.

"In case they test negative for Covid-19 in the first test, they may undergo the second test and stay in a hotel while waiting for the test result of the repeat test," he added.

The infection rate for the first test found in international tourists arriving in Phuket was 2%, while the result of a repeat test showed the infection rate had climbed as high as 4-5%, which were mostly cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, he said.

On Tuesday, the first day Thailand resumed its Test & Go scheme, Phuket welcomed 17 Test & Go tourists and 2,439 others via its tourism sandbox programme, according to the province's immigration office. The province recorded 493 new Covid-19 infections, 387 of which were local cases, two in the Test & Go scheme and the other 104 were in the Phuket Sandbox programme, said Dr Koosak.

The province was concerned that the high infection rate among visitors from Russia and Kazakhstan would badly hit the tourism industry, said Phuket governor Narong Woonciew.

Of the about 300 new Covid-19 infections recorded daily, about 100 were foreign visitors arriving mainly from those two nations, he said. "Russian tourists account for a vast majority of international tourists arriving in Thailand through Phuket," the governor said.

"For three years now we've been trying to control Covid-19 while also trying to ease economic hardships faced by the people," he added.

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