Russian tourists relax on the beach in Phuket on March 12, 2022. (Reuters photo)
Phuket is counting down to declaring Covid-19 an endemic disease after the tourist island reported fewer than 100 daily Covid-19 cases for the past 10 consecutive days, the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office said.
Covid-19 will be labelled an endemic disease in Thailand in early July, allowing people to return to normal life as planned by the Ministry of Public Health.
Koosak Kookiatkul, Phuket’s public health chief, said on Wednesday that Phuket had recorded just 39 new cases and zero deaths on Tuesday.
There were also no new cases from international visitors since the screening test was replaced by a vaccination certificate and health insurance.
“This means we can prepare Phuket for Covid-19 being declared as an endemic disease,” he said.
“Phuket’s fatality rate has been less than 0.1% for two weeks and the vaccination rate among locals is relatively high with 89% of the population fully vaccinated and 67% having received their booster dose,” Dr Koosak added.
For endemic disease status, the death ratio must not exceed one in 1,000 people infected, or 0.1%, and more than 60 % of the population must have received full vaccine doses, he said.
However, Dr Koosak said only 52 % of senior citizens in the province had booster shots.
He aimed to increase the vaccination rate among people over 60 since they have the highest risk of dying from the virus.
Koh Samui is proving another popular destination after the Test & Go scheme was cancelled on May 1. Bangkok Airways said its flights to Koh Samui are now fully booked.
International tourists have overwhelmed Suvarnabhumi airport since the requirement for an RT-PCR test after entry was dropped.
Ratchaporn Poonsawat, chairman of the Koh Samui Tourism Promotion Association, said tourists can enter Koh Samui without restrictions.
He said the hotel occupancy rate has increased almost 30% compared to April, and the association was promoting Koh Samui to foreign tourism agencies. He added he was hopeful local tourism would thrive as soon as the Thailand Pass requirement was lifted.
In contrast to Phuket and Koh Samui, Krabi is suffering from a lack of international flights to bring in incoming travellers.
Ittirit Kinglake, former president of the Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT), said on Wednesday Krabi has been deprived of a potential economic recovery because Krabi International Airport is not fully operational.
He said Krabi only has two international airlines flying to the province while Phuket has almost 200 flights per day. The international terminal is under renovation but has been approved for reopening by the Airports of Thailand (AOT).
Mr Ittirit pleaded with affiliates to open the international terminal to welcome more foreigners. The sooner the airport can operate at full capacity, the greater the opportunities for local entrepreneurs in Krabi, he said.
Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry has sounded the alarm after an upward surge of Covid-19 infections in the Northeast, which is likely to see a spike in caseloads over the next two to three weeks.
The surge comes despite many areas of the country reporting fewer infections, including the South.
Dr Chakkarat Pittayawonganon, director of the Bureau of Epidemiology, said endemic status would have to be declared nationwide as it is impractical to be selective on such a declaration as people travel from place to place and can still transmit the virus. Provinces must prepare their own transition plans before July.