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Sandbox could be revised, cancelled if Covid-19 outbreaks occur

Neill Fronde



PHOTO: Thai officials make backup plans if the Phuket Sandbox opens a Pandora's box of Covid-19 outbreaks. (via Pixabay)

With Phuket scheduled to reopen to international travellers next Friday, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has put together a “Plan B” for closing the Sandbox in case of outbreaks. Deputy Director-General of the Department of Information Natapanu Nopakun, who also acts as the Deputy Spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, outlines possible scenarios in an English address during the CCSA national Covid-19 briefing yesterday.

The Deputy Director-General said that if things worsened considerably after reopening, plans could be reconsidered or halted. If outbreaks increase rapidly in Phuket once the province opens to international travellers on July 1, revisions to the Sandbox may be necessary.

Some outcomes would be the possibility of implementing restrictions on activities and businesses that might be high-risk for Covid-19 infection spread. This scenario would be rough as bars and nightlife venues are currently fighting and petitioning the government to be allowed to reopen.

Another possible action would be adding a hotel quarantine to reduce an incoming spread of Covid-19, or creating a “Sealed Route” plan to isolate tourism. If Covid-19 outbreaks occur on a larger scale it’s possible that the Sandbox plan would be cancelled completely.

Natapanu reminds everyone that this is a sort of doomsday contingency plan and hopes that Covid-19 infections are minor and can be handled and contained. He points out that Phuket is now ranked 28th in Thailand for provincial infections and is improving.

“Of course, this is in preparation of a worst-case scenario if the province opens and something adverse happens, there are more cases and we are not able to control the infections in the province, then this would be the consideration.”

Some possible scenarios that could prompt a reconsidering of the Phuket Sandbox reopening would all involve indications of Covid-19 outbreaks. If more than 90 people a week get infected with Covid-19, the government would likely make changes to the program. Even without that 90-person target, if infections reach across more than 6 villages in all 3 districts of Phuket, the spread area would be considered a danger and spurn action.

Both of those Sandbox-affecting scenarios point to visible outbreaks of Covid-19 affecting many people or many locations or both. Lack of information could be another cause of concern though, and if officials find Covid-19 infections cropping up without being able to follow the history through contact tracing or find any links to known infections, the mystery could be a major cause for concern.

Finally, if hospitals run the risk of being overwhelmed treating infections of Covid-19, this creates a health crisis even for those not infected but unable to get other medical treatment. If hospital bed capacity reaches above 80% in Phuket due to outbreaks, officials may pull the plug on the Sandbox scheme.

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

SOURCE: The Phuket News


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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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