Phuket Covid-19 Cases Spike Leads to Island’s Sealing Off

On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said Phuket authorities would ban travel from the rest of the country for two weeks to prevent a spike in Covid-19 cases.

The ban on travel from other provinces to the tourist island would be in effect from August 3 to 16. However, it would not affect foreign visitors, officials said.

Phuket, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, expects to revive Thailand’s tourism industry, which accounts for a high percentage of the country’s revenue.

With its Sandbox scheme, which began on July 1 and allows fully vaccinated tourists to enter the island without quarantine, the provincial government hopes to reactivate the local economy.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat explained that the new travel controls would only restrict the entries from other parts of the kingdom.

Therefore, foreign visitors would not be affected by the new measures, he stated.

Tanee also said that travelers who have stayed in Phuket for more than 14 days would be allowed to depart for other parts of Thailand and return to the province only if they have booked international flights from the island’s airport.

There would also be exceptions for food, medical supplies and personnel, fuel supplies and money, an order signed by Phuket’s provincial governor said.

The stricter restrictions also force some venues in Phuket to operate during restricted hours.

Besides, authorities have ordered others to close as they try to control the coronavirus situation across the country.

Thailand has faced its worst Covid-19 outbreak in recent months, with the more transmissible Delta variant dominating its case toll.

On Thursday, health officials reported new record numbers after detecting 17,669 Covid-19 cases and 165 deaths. Twenty-one victims died at home, they added.

Meanwhile, hospitals in Bangkok and surrounding provinces reported that they have run out of capacity due to increasing infections.

The government reported that over 1,200 people had been waiting for hospital beds, and more than 6,000 had called a hotline this week to request treatment.

“We don’t know where to put the sick people anymore, the ER (emergency room) units in many hospitals have to be temporarily closed because they no longer have bed spaces,” Department of Medical Services head Somsak Akksilp told a news conference.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said more than 37,000 hospital beds and makeshift field hospitals in the capital and its surrounding provinces were available.

However, authorities have struggled to curb the wave of cases that began in April. It increased the case toll to 561,030, with 4,562 fatalities.