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Phuket Opinion: Phuket’s ‘Awesome Mix Tape’
Sunday 3 May 2020, 11:59AM
The lifting of some of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions is now causing just as much confusion as when the orders were being initially rolled out. In issuing the initial orders, the Phuket Provincial Office was announcing them publicly just hours before they were being implemented, leaving people no time to prepare. Some of the orders came less than hour before the midnight start of the order began. That may have been intentional, no matter how unprofessional, how unorganised that may have seemed, or how unwelcomed it was. Worse, nationwide orders were being issued in Bangkok that superceding the authority of any provincial governors, while many other orders were left at the governor’s discretion. Think national nightly curfew from 10pm to 4am, versus the Phuket Governor’s “request” for people to stay indoors from 8pm to 5am. For those still confused, it is the 10pm to 4am that applies in law. More recently was the confusion over the order from Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha late Thursday to issue an notice extending all health and provincial orders, just after Phuket Governor Phakaphong Tavipatana had announced the lifting of the “Tambon Lockdown” – and naming the five high-risk areas that will remain under control. That left everyone unsure as to whether the Tambon Lockdown had been lifted at all. All we needed from Phuket authorities was one simple sentence to explain the state of play in Phuket at a that point in time. If possible, a little advance notice would be even better. That clarity has not been provided. Today (May 3), a raft of businesses are allowed to re-open and a host of activities allowed to resume, within certain limits to prevent the spread of COVID-19, yet that order to allow these to resume came from Bangkok – and all the restrictions lifted as of May 3 remain at the discretion of provincial governors. The governor in each province reserves the right to keep any health orders in effect as they see fit for the province they apparently govern. All the COVID-19 shutdown orders in Phuket were ratified by provincial orders issued by Phuket Governor Phakaphong. There has been no confirmation that any of the provincial orders other than the Tambon Lockdown have been rescinded. Today, according to the national order in Bangkok, all “recreation areas” are now free to use as long as there are no gatherings of people and no group events or activities. Individual activities that do not risk the spread of the virus are allowed. Anywhere else in the world beaches are classified as “recreation areas”. Here in Phuket, today, we just don’t know if people are allowed to go to the beach or not. To be clear, no such beach ban was issued in Phang Nga, immediately north of Phuket. As for the nationwide alcohol ban being lifted today, the lifting of that restriction was another Bangkok order delivered by no less than Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, yet it came with the one rider: “But Bangkok and some provinces can extend the ban if they think [lifting it] will do more harm than good,” he said. The alcohol ban in Phuket was re-ratified by a provincial order, and there has still not been any notice that order has been rescinded. Right now, if anyone wants to know if a provincial order remains in effect in Phuket – despite whether or not the restriction has been lifted by natiownwide order announced in Bangkok – people are just going to have to try their luck. A word of warning, people may be arrested for breaking a provincial order that has not been lifted in this province, despite a national announcement saying that the restriction has been lifted. Bangkok officials have been very clear that the lifting any restrictions remains at the discretion of provincial governors. Dear Phuket Governor, we are at your discretion. We are willing to oblige by health orders that help prevent the spread of the virus, regardless of how people behave in Bang Tao, but we need to know which restrictions remain in effect, and which restrictions have been lifted. Could you please let us know? Just a little clarity on exactly what is and what is not allowed would be much appreciated.