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South Korea launches Sandboxesque reopening



PHOTO: South Korea has reopened with a similar scheme to the Phuket Sandbox. (via Wikimedia)

Vaccinated travellers can avoid 14-day quarantines as long as they have proof of World Health Organisation-approved vaccination, a negative Covid-19 test, are not travelling from a high-risk country, and get advance approval before travelling. Wait, wait! Before you click away, this isn’t yet another Phuket Sandbox story; this is the strikingly similar reopening plan enacted by South Korea that also launched on July 1.

Much like Phuket’s Sandbox, the Korean plan – shall we call it the Seoul K-Box? – is meant to ease the country back into international travel by relaxing restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers following much of the same requirements and procedure as the Phuket plan. But unlike Thailand’s efforts, the aim is less to jumpstart international tourism and more to encourage continued mass vaccination and to allow in those with a compelling need to travel.

Aside from the vaccine and Covid-19 testing requirements, those wishing to travel to South Korea must present documentation proving family connections, business needs, academic necessity, or significant public interest before being approved to travel to Korea.

South Korea has followed Phuket’s lead, even as neighbouring countries remain locked down. Vietnam has been all but sealed to the outside world for 15 months, and Hong Kong has reduced quarantine to 7 days for those coming from safe areas who test positive for Covid-19 antibodies (meaning they are vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 already) but have not announced plans to reopen. Singapore turned heads by declaring Covid-19 part of life now and no longer treating it as a plague that could be eradicated, but they still have a 14-day quarantine and no reopening date.

For South Korea though, another goal of the sandbox-style reopening is that in allowing only vaccinated travellers in, it incentivises though who haven’t yet been vaccinated to get their shots. The government had previously waived quarantine requirements for anyone vaccinated in South Korea who then left the country and returned. These rules, along with reducing capacity restrictions at entertainment venues and allowing vaccinated people to go mask-free outdoors, encourage people to get their inoculation.

But wait, South Korea is allowing open nightlife and soju isn’t banned while Phuket has both bars and booze on lockdown? Why is that? In a word: Vaccines.

While South Korea was slow to get its vaccine drive off the ground like many other Asian nations, it is now behind only sparse Mongolia, China, Singapore and Hong Kong in vaccination rates. The push to vaccinate has allowed the easing of restrictions and the first step towards a reopening like Thailand’s, except with booze and activities.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times


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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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