PHUKET: Police began patrolling Bangla Rd, Patong, last night to begin enforcing heightened measures to get tourists to wear face masks in public areas.
Patong Police Chief Col Sujin Nonbordee led an assembly of police officers, health officials and officers from Patong Municipality at the police box at the beach end of Bangla Rd at 7pm, where he handed down the order that the initial stage of the campaign is to raise awareness among tourists only.
“By joining together to campaign for people and tourists, both Thais and foreigners, to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 Bangla Road area,” was the aim of the patrols last night, explained Col Sujin.
No fines are to be imposed at this stage.
The patrols were launched “due to reports that some tourists do not comply with Thailand’s public health measures, such as refusing to wear a cloth or face mask and gathering together to dine together. This could lead to the spread of the Omicron strain of COVID-19 that is spreading widely in the area now,” Col Sujin added.
Joining the assembly and ensuing patrol of Bangla Rd was Patong Mayor Chalermsak Mannesri and Phuket Vice Governor Amnuay Pinsuwan.
A report of the patrols issued by Patong Municipality noted that the officers spoke with tourists, staff and business operators on Bangla Rd “to clarify and understand the issue of not wearing a mask in public”.
“In the epidemic situation of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), there will be a penalty of a maximum fine of 20,000 baht under the Communicable Diseases Act B.E. 2558, which tourists understand and are ready to cooperate in good compliance with such measures,” the report added.
However, it has long been noted that by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok in late November, that first time offences for not wearing a face mask in public areas is to be no more than B1,000.
Meanwhile, police and other officers launched their own campaign in Phuket Town to inform tourists to wear a mask while in public.
Leading the campaign which marched along the streets of the Phuket Old Town area were Phuket Town Mayor Saroj Angkanapilas and Phuket Provincial Chief Administrative Officer (Palad) Anupap Rodkwan Yodrabam.
Military officers, police officers and public health officials joined the entourage, which toured popular tourist streets of Thalang Rd, Yaowarat Rd, Ranong Rd and Phang Nga Rd.
“The campaign is for local residents and tourists, both Thais and foreigners, to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by walking along roads that are tourist attractions in the Old Phuket Town area, said Mayor Saroj.
“Most of the people, and tourists, almost everyone wears a mask, but only some of them don’t,” he said.
“Officers spoke with tourists, who understand and are cooperating in following [the COVID measures] well,” he said.
Mr Anupap noted, “Although the number of infected people in Phuket has decreased lately, there are still some tourists, both Thais and foreigners, who do not wear masks. Therefore, this campaign has been launched for tourists to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is the concern of the provincial governor.”
“The governor has already asked for cooperation from the consuls in Phuket to inform tourists to wear masks, as well as asking for cooperation from hotel operators where tourists stay,” he added.
The campaign will be rolled out across the island, Mr Anupap said.
“After this we will synchronize with officials in each district and integrate [campaign efforts] with relevant agencies, including the military, police, administrative departments and public health officials, to patrol various areas, especially important tourist attractions of Phuket,” he said.
“If you see tourists or other people not wearing masks, the law will be enforced in accordance with the order of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 of Phuket Province,” he warned, without clarifying exactly which penalties will be enforced.