Don’t be mad, come in May: Phuket hints it may drop COVID test double-pricing

At right, a travelers is screened for COVID on arrival Thursday at Phuket International Airport. Original photo: Phuket Public Relations Department
At right, a travelers is screened for COVID on arrival Thursday at Phuket International Airport. Original photo: Phuket Public Relations Department

Phuket officials facing boycott calls reiterated today that they won’t waive the cost of coronavirus testing on foreign nationals who travel there – not even tax-paying residents – but hinted that it may soon change anyway.

Jatuphong Kaewsai of City Hall said that while the government would cover the expense for Thai nationals, it would not do the same for foreign tourists or expats. He noted that the newly announced policy expires after next week.

“If they want to travel to Phuket without having to face such a problem, they can come on May 1. The policy is only in place until the end of this month,” Jatuphong said. In a separate call, another island rep said to await an announcement.

The island destination drew controversy after announcing a policy change that, insteading of charging all travelers THB300 for COVID-19 tests, would make them free to Thais and THB500 for foreigners.

So whose brilliant idea was it to stick it to the foreigners? Jatuphong said he couldn’t answer that, but said they may withdraw the policy in May. Travelers with proof of vaccination or a negative test result are exempt from testing.

The issue drew a furious response from the immigrant quarter after it was called out by British blogger extraordinaire Richard Barrow, who occasionally champions the community’s interests and has recently launched his own news outlet.

“I don’t know about you, but I’m boycotting the whole island now until they rescind this disgraceful rule,” he wrote on social media. “Most of the foreigners in Thailand pay taxes that pay for things like the health service. I also pay for social security so I can get free medical care the same as my Thai colleagues at work. But this is beyond belief. I’m speechless.” 

Many responded to support Barrow’s boycott call.

“If you were to hope that one province would ‘get it’, it would be the one that has been reliant on farang arrivals for 30+ years. #ShameOnPhuket,” Duncan Worthington wrote.

“Unbelievable. I know Thailand is xenophobic, but for the authorities to do that is an absolute disgrace. They can piss off. I’ll take my business elsewhere in future,” Andrew Brown wrote.

Still, some saw an overdeveloped sense of privilege and entitlement in the backlash 

“Omg, a bunch of whining whiners. I’m Thai and I’m American. I’ll fu*king pay. Mother.of.gawd, the entitlement is fu*king annoying,” wrote Facebooker Peak Ness. “You bunch have social security where you came from. Let the Thais have theirs. They have the one country.”

Thailand set a new record with 2,070 COVID-19 cases announced today, nearly half the amount recorded in the first year of the pandemic.


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