The Phuket News
Talks target return of cruises
Kevin Cheok, Singapore Ambassador to Thailand, last week paid a courtesy call on the Governor of Phuket to discuss plans to re-open cruise tourism between the two islands.
Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew and Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong welcomed Ambassador Cheok at the Phuket Governor’s Lounge at Phuket Provincial Hall on Mar 23.
Governor Narong opened the pleasantries. “In 2020, I had the opportunity to meet with the Ambassador of the Republic of Singapore in Thailand to drive the opening of direct flights from Singapore to Phuket, which clearly resulted in concrete results. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Singapore for having direct flights to Phuket,” he said.
Ambassador Cheok noted that on average there are currently two SingaporePhuket flights per day. “By next week, it will increase to four flights per day, which will be similar to before the COVID-19 epidemic, when there were about five flights per day,” he said.
“On this occasion I would like to thank Phuket as well. I have spoken with Singaporeans who live in Phuket. They appreciate Phuket [officials] for taking good care of Singaporean tourists staying in Phuket,” he added.
Amb Cheok said that the COVID infection situation in Singapore was similar to that being experienced in Phuket. “About 99% of those infected are asymptomatic or suffering only very mild symptoms,” he said.
“We have also found that the weely infection growth rate from COVID-19 infections has been consistently less than 1, which means cases in Singapore are declining,” he noted.
Dr Kusak Kukiattikoon, Chief of the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) said that the rate of infections in Phuket was likely to continue to decrease.
“Most of the infected people [in Phuket] are ‘Green’ patients, meaning mostly asymptomatic, which has resulted in lower rates of hospital bed use,” Dr Kusak said.
“Phuket has passed the peak of infections already. Phuket is well managed and the people of Phuket have adapted to live in the midst of the coronavirus situation very well.
“More than 87% of people in Phuket have been vaccinated with complete doses and we have a fatality rate at the national level of only 0.7%, and in Phuket only 0.2% of those infected have died,” Dr Kusak said.
Ambassador Cheok noted that both Phuket and Singapore were entering the transition to consider COVID-19 an ‘endemic’ disease.
“Once that happens, I can see Singapore re-opening cruise routes between Singapore and Thailand. This should help boost the tourism sector and the economy of Phuket,” he said.
Amb Cheok highlighted that in 2019 about 110 cruise ships from Singapore docked in Phuket, carrying more than 250,000 passengers.
Amb Cheok proposed that Phuket and Singapore start drafting “harmonized cruise standards”, such as any required measures including any exemptions from RT-PCR tests before and during travel.
“They can provide an ATK test from Singapore before departure instead,” he said.
“Passengers on board will be fully vaccinated and undergo Antigen Rapid Test from Singapore prior to departure,” he added.
Governor Narong voiced his support for the move.
“Phuket is ready to take care of tourists who come to travel in Phuket. This is the intention of Thailand: to take care of the tourists who come to visit and help restore Thailand’s economy as best as possible,” he said.
Governor Narong assigned local officials to start working on drafting the measures required for cruise tours so they would be ready to be implemented as soon as they are allowed to be used.
The draft proposal is to be submitted to the central government.