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Chiang Mai applies to implement sandbox re-opening from August 1

Maya Taylor



PHOTO: Flickr/vanessaliu85

Officials in the northern province of Chiang Mai will be watching Phuket’s July 1 re-opening carefully, as they seek to follow suit a month later. The southern island will re-open to fully vaccinated tourists from qualifying countries in just over 3 weeks’ time and Chiang Mai hopes to do the same from August 1.

The sandbox program is the Thai government’s attempt to open safely to world travellers, in a controlled manor, from July. Initially in Phuket.

Narong Tananuwat from the Thai Chamber of Commerce says the northern province can’t afford to have its economy decimated any further. The proposal for the Chiang Mai sandbox would initially see the 4 districts of Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, Doi Tao, and Muang opened to vaccinated foreign tourists, with the rest of the province opened from October 15.

Chiang Mai’s sandbox would consist of the “sealed route” model, whereby tourists would have to spend the first 7 days in the 4 districts and, after a negative Covid-19 test, would be permitted to travel elsewhere within the sealed route. Sightseeing itineraries would be restricted to the agreed route and to pre-approved local attractions, with independent travel off-limits. The proposal is being submitted to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration for approval.

In Phuket, the current sandbox model calls for travellers to spend their first 14 days in the province before moving to other parts of Thailand. During their stay they can travel freely around the island which is 48 kilometres long and 21 kilometres wide.

Chiang Mai earned 100 billion baht in tourism revenue during 2019, which plummeted to 43 billion last year. Over 60% of tourism-related businesses in the province have shut and only 3% of the province’s 80,000 hotel rooms are still available for booking.

The third wave of Covid-19 has wreaked far more economic damage than previous outbreaks, with officials having to introduce stimulus packages to help the devastated tourism sector. Narong says for any plan to work, the locals must be vaccinated and he is frustrated at the slow pace of the government’s vaccine rollout.

“We need the vaccine to be administered to people in a timely fashion. If it is, the plan should proceed without a hitch. Covid-19 will be with us for at least a decade. We need to create a safe environment for making a living and for that to happen, we need to build herd immunity.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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