Koh Samui the surrounding Island's and Phuket's economy relies ninety percent on tourism, the pandemic has forced many businesses to close, leaving thousands without a job.
SOUTHERN ISLAND'S HIT HARD BY LOCKDOWNS
Koh Samui, a small Island in the Gulf of Thailand, has been shut down now for almost 10 weeks. Measures that were put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 included suspending the passenger ferry service and closing the airport to passanger flights.
On 18 March 2020 all venues such as restaurants bars, sports venues, cinemas, diving schools, nightclubs, Spas, massage parlours and karaoke bars etc were told to close until 31 March 2020, the order was given following the closure of Bangkok.
STATE OF EMERGENCY
On March 25, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared a state of emergency, effective March 26. In a televised announcement the Prime Minister announced the an initial set of emergency measures that would take effect.
Most restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues were to remain closed except for restaurants with food delivery, supermarkets, restaurants’ delivery service providers, food markets, drug stores, convenience stores, banks, and other stores selling necessary items.
Thai law controlling emergency situations gave the Prime Minister’s Office broad authorities, and more emergency measures that could further restrictict movements and activities in Thailand which could be announced at any time.
At this point the Thai goernment was yet to announce the curfew which came into effect on April 3 / 2020.
SAMUI ISLAND ISOLATED
Koh Samui mayor Ramnet Jaikwang declared the three-week entry ban, effective from April 7-April 30. Violators would be liable to a fine of up to 20,000 baht.
Bangkok airways. Samuis only airline annonced flights would be suspended on April 7 until further notice.
Surat Thani governor Wichawut Jinto said, "the island would not be totally closed off to outsiders. However, after the 3 week entry ban people wishing to land there will be strictly screened on arrival, to contain the outbreak.
"Unless exempt, they must have a health certificate from a public hospital issued within the previous 72 hours confirming that they are not infected with the virus", he said.
KOH SAMUI ASSOCIATION FOR TOURISM PREPARES TO ACCOMADATE TOURISTS
Mr. Worasit Phongkhamphan, President of the Samui Tourism Association, said on April 22 that the association had a meeting with the Koh Samui district.
Koh Samui Municipality and related public health agencies had been preparing to accommodate tourists travelling to Koh Samui via airlines. This will involve stricter measures for tourist coming into the island either through plane or ferry.
The Samui Tourism Association is prepared to work parallel with the government. Although Koh Samui does not have any additional cases of Covid-19 this doesn’t mean that Samui authorities can relax or unlock Koh Samui yet.
“the government and the governors of Surat Thani will determine which business can be opened first but since 90% of businesses in Koh Samui are related to tourism it will be a tough decision.”
“Therefore, we still have time to screen passengers through ferries and airlines to the same standard, as well as stressing that there are no tourists or people infected to make Samui a green zone.”
HAS THE LOCKDOWN SEALED SAMUIS FATE?
Samui which relied heavily on the tourist trade was already experiencing a decrease in the number of vistors coming to the Island in recent years.
Due to the devastating effect of the lockdown many businesses are now permently closed, and with no indication as to when international tourism will return, those that haven't will most likely close too.
Chewang Beach Road once a bustling street for shopping, dining, foot massages, entertainment and the nightlife hub of koh Samui , is now lined with empty and shuttered shop units, closed down restaurants, empty bars and night clubs, most of which are for sale or rent.
Many guest workers from all over the country which relied upon the tourist trade to make a living are now struggling to support themselves, stranded and unable to get home to their province and their familes. Food lines with long queus organized by independent fundraisers are their main source of support.
The ferry service has resumed passanger service, so have most of the national airports with limited expensive domestic flights, Bangkok Airways, Samuis only airline also resumed domestic flights, but there is still no inter-provincial bus service on journeys in excess of 300 km.
The Inter-provincial bus service was expected to resume on June the 1st, services to the North and North East of Bangkok did, but its ban on services to the southern provinces and journeys of more than 300 km are still maintained.
The state sponsored inter-provincial bus company has not yet confirmed when services will resume, stranded guest workers wishing to return home are pinning their hopes on July , it's been proposed July 1 will end all lockdowns as well as lifting the curfew in the final phase of easing restrictions.
Koh Samui has 0 coronavirus casualties and to date remains COVID free.
One though could argue Koh Samui is the casualty of the coronavirus.
Above ; Chewang Beach Rd Koh Samui.
What was once referred to as 'The Jewel of the Gulf of Thaiand', Koh Samui post-pandemic is a reminiscence of a bygone era.
Phuket, one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations and no stranger to disasters since the Tsunami of 2004 has never been so empty.
Since late March, the Phuket governor has imposed lockdown measures and advised people to stay indoors as much as possible to curb the spread of the COVID-19. Beaches have been closed. Streets have gone empty. The party lights in Patong, perhaps for the first time in decades, turned off.
25 MARCH 2020
The governor of Phuket, Pakkhapong Thawiphat ordered a weeklong lockdown of the tourist destination in a bid to control the spread of Covid-19 after nine new cases had emerged.
Governor Pakkhapong requested all at-risk locations, including entertainment venues and department stores, to close while ordering restaurants and food vendors to only provide takeaways.
Pakkhapong Thawiphat later decided to impose the lockdown immediately until March 31.
29 MARCH 2020
Citing the worsening COVID-19 situation in Phuket province, Governor Pakkapong Thaveewat imposed a lockdown of the popular resort island, prohibiting all land and sea access to and from the province.
The lockdown came into effect midnight Sunday 29 March until April 30th.
PHUKET ISLAND ISOLATED
The only land route linking the island with the mainland, at Tha Chatchai, was closed to traffic. All vehicles, except trucks carrying consumer products, LPG, fuel, construction materials, medical supplies, rescue vehicles, ambulances, government vehicles and those with permission, were forbidden crossing into or out of the province.
All boats were forbidden to arrive at or depart from the island, with similar exceptions. Boat skippers and crew members would go through a screening process before being allowing to disembark.
Members and families of diplomatic corps and international organizations working in Phuket must obtain documents from the Thai Foreign Affairs Ministry to certify their presence in Thailand and a “fitness to travel” health certificate obtained within 72 hours from a doctor.
PHUKET AIRPORT CLOSURE
As for air travel, the Governor said that the number of arrivals had dropped drastically. There were only 4 arrivals 29 March, while departures numbered more than 8,000, adding that access by air would be halted on April 10.
Phuket airport has been closed since April 10*, with a ban on all flights except government and/or military aircraft; emergency landings; technical landing aircraft without passengers leaving the plane; aircraft providing humanitarian or medical aid; cargo aircraft; and any aircraft granted permission to repatriate foreigners to their home countries.
The ban on all inbound international passenger flights came into effect on April 3.
Phuket airport still remains closed until further notice for both International and Domestic flights and isn't expected to open until 31 July, which is the proposed date Thailand will end all lockdowns.
ALL PHUKET BEACHES CLOSED
In late March all beaches in Phuket were also closed by order of the Phuket Governor to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The order, following the decision of the Phuket Communicable Disease Committee, which Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana chairs, came into effect on 28 March 2020 and was remain ineffect and will remain in effect until at least April 10.
Beaches in Phuket did not reopen to the public until 2 June 2020.
Above; A barrier blocks access to Patong beach, in Phuket.
In a separate order the same day 28 March 2020, the committee also ordered Bangla Rd in Patong closed to all persons and traffic, except local residents.
Patong Municipality was designated the authority to work with the Phuket Provincial Health Office to test for the virus in the Bangla area and to clean and sanitise any risk areas in the vicinity.
PHUKET EXODUS 1 MAY 2020
Following the end of the lockdown of Phuket Island (29 March until April 30th) which had left thousands of residents and inter-provincial workers, trapped in Phuket for a month due to Covid-19 and the complete shutdown of the island, some 40,000 people registered to leave Phuket to head back to their home provinces.
The need for people to book their places to leave was to reduce the crowd of people and vehicles at the Phuket Check Point, where they would be “screened” for elevated body temperature before leaving the island by bridge.
To prevent the Phuket Check Point at Tha Chatchai from becoming overwhelmed 2,500 people were to leave in the morning, from 5am to midday, and another 2,500 to leave after that, from midday to 8pm
Of note, the ban on all interprovincial bus services 300km or longer was in place, but minivan services for journeys shorter than 300mk were allowed.
In a quick U-turn, the road off the island was once again closed in the afternoon, forcing hundreds of cars to turn around, and police announced that no more wouldl be allowed to leave until the next day.
The decision spurred much disappointment among those looking forward to going home, as many of them no longer have work in Phuket, and hence no form of income to support themselves while on the island.
As of mid May More than 20,000 people had left Phuket due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 restrictions, a new app launched by the Phuket Provincial Police has revealed.
Since then there have been no official statements as to how many people have actually left the island.
Above; Travellers check their registation and other information before they are allowed to leave Phuket by road.
Inter-provincial bus service to Phuket remains suspended.The state sponsored Transport Company announced it was maintaining its ban on services to the southern provinces and journeys of more than 300 km on 2 June 2020.
Needless to say this decision has left thousands of residents and inter-provincial workers still trapped in Phuket.
The company was expected to resume services from Bangkok to Koh Samui, Phuket and Trang from 1 June 2020.
Phuket Airport remains closed until further notice.
People are pinning their hopes on July, to resume service, it's been proposed July 1 will end all lockdowns as well as lifting the curfew in the final phase of easing restrictions.
Phuket Airport reopened on 13 June 2020. (update)
From Jan 5 to May 29, there were a total of 227 confirmed coronavirus infections in Phuket, more than any other province except Bangkok.
Of the 227 people diagnosed, 224 have recovered and been discharged from hospital.
There were 3 deaths.
Menzzoo Magazine is supporting a fundraiser in Koh Samui thats collecting donations to provide food parcels and bus tickets to those who have been affected by the devastating impact of the lockdown and ensuing emergency decree...
FEED KOH SAMUI
Due to the devastating effect of the lockdown many businesses are now permanently closed, and with no indication as to when international tourism will return, businesses that haven't, will most likely close too.
Prospects for employment are not looking good.
With many locals, inter-provincial and migrant workers relying heavily on the tourist trade to make a living, the pandemic and the ensuing Emegency Decree with little assistance from the government has left them struggling to feed themselves and their families.
Our humanitarian goal during this unprecedented period is to help as many people as possible without a job by delivering food parcels until they can start once again to support themselves.
We understand that many of you back in your home country are at a loss struggling with this pandemic, but if you can, we ask you to dig deep for this worthy cause.
BUS SERVICES TO THAILANDS SOUTH RESUME
Bangkok, 09 June, 2020, at 09.30 Hrs. – The Transport Co., Ltd. has announced the resumption of interprovincial bus services on the Southern routes from today, 9 June, following the government’s relaxations for public transport to travel across provinces during the night-time curfew hours (23.00 – 03.00 Hrs.)
The resumption of bus services to the South will be on the following routes (from Mo Chit 2 bus terminal): Bangkok-Ko Samui; Bangkok-Phuket; Bangkok-Dan Nok; Bangkok-Satun; Bangkok-Krabi; Bangkok-Chumphon; Bangkok-Lang Suan, and Bangkok-Three Pagodas Pass.