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3 travellers escaped Phuket Sandbox but were quickly caught

Neill Fronde



Photo: A missing Norwegian man from the Phuket Sandbox was found early this morning. (via Wichit Police)

In light of the recent discovery of the first internationally imported case of Covid-19 in the Phuket Sandbox scheme, the news that 3 people so far have “escaped” from the strictly regulated accommodations might be a little unnerving. While the Sandbox may not be airtight, authorities successfully located and handled 3 tourists reported missing from Phuket hotels this week.

The first missing tourist was an open and shut case. An American traveller thought to have escaped the Phuket Sandbox reopening plan was reported not to have been in his hotel overnight. It was quickly confirmed that he had encountered an urgent business matter back home and had left Phuket and Thailand altogether to fly back to the United States.

The second escaped Sandbox fugitive was a German man with a Thai wife in Phuket province. Conflicting reports are unclear if he checked into his SHA Plus hotel and then disappeared for the nightly guest check or if he never even showed up to his hotel. It is believed he did not install and activate the required mobile phone app that tracks visitors movements while in the 14 day arrival period in Phuket.

He went to see his family, a violation of initial quarantine until a negative test can be confirmed. He did not stay in his hotel, also a violation of Sandbox rules. The man was quickly located and returned to his hotel. No word yet on any punishment or repercussions for his actions, though Phuket’s immigration office referred to it as a lesson, suggesting that measures could get more strict if more cases like this occur.

The final missing Sandbox passenger was more lost than escaped. A hotel in Saku reported an 82 year old Norwegian man missing from regular guest check-ups early Monday morning. The hotel staff searched Nai Thon beach and areas near the hotel and contacted neighbouring hotels and the Phuket Sandbox Operation Center, which notified police and the Norwegian Consulate.

A full-blown manhunt was avoided when a hotel security guard nearby reported seeing someone matching the missing man’s description getting on a motorbike heading to Cherng Talay. Police eventually tracked down the man at 4:40 am outside the Central Shopping Mall in Kathu.

The man confirmed his identity, and the reason for disappearing seems to be a case of mild dementia. He had left his phone in his room and wandered off with only his wallet. When police located him, he was hungry, tired, and disoriented. He was escorted safely back to his hotel.

SOURCE: The Phuket News and Bangkok Post


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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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