Officials reluctant to cancel Phuket sandbox, lifeline for desperate locals

PHOTO: สาม กรกฎา

Officials have confirmed that the Phuket sandbox scheme will not be cancelled, despite rising infections on the island. At least not for now. The Bangkok Post reports that despite the island reporting 40 new infections yesterday, the highest number since it re-opened to foreign tourists, the governor is reluctant to put an end to the financial lifeline for desperate locals. Instead, a number of additional restrictions have been introduced.

Most of the new infections are cases of local transmission, primarily in people arriving from high-risk “dark red” provinces to look for work. Officials have responded by strengthening measures to get on to the island, including the need for domestic arrivals to have proof of vaccination and a negative Covid-19 test.

To date, the sandbox scheme has resulted in 278,623 hotel nights booked between July and September, a tiny light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel. Yuthasak Supasorn from the TAT says the scheme will continue, but efforts must be made to curb the spread of the virus, adding that the Phuket scheme is also helping tourism elsewhere.

“We have to stay on high alert and try to decrease daily infections over the next 7 days to sustain the programme in the long run. We have to keep this fortress steady as the province is a test run for other destinations. For example, Samui has most of its international visitors flying from the Phuket sandbox, rather than its Samui Plus model.”

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Another concern for Yuthasak is the perception of Thailand abroad, with a number of countries classifying it as a high-risk destination.

“We have to work two times harder to convince the international community Phuket is safe for travel, which is difficult when Covid-19 cases are peaking nationwide.”

Meanwhile, the government has approved a proposal to allow sandbox tourists to travel to the neighbouring provinces of Krabi and Phang Nga after 7 days on Phuket, down from 14. A number of islands in Krabi province hope to re-open to Phuket sandbox tourists, but Sasithorn Kittidhrakul from the Krabi Tourism Association says 70% of the islands’ residents will need to be vaccinated first.

For more information on how to get into Thailand during the pandemic, CLICK HERE.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Maya Taylor

A seasoned writer, with a degree in Creative Writing. Over ten years' experience in producing blog and magazine articles, news reports and website content.

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