“Phuket Sandbox” still on, provincial restrictions set after uptick in Covid-19

Photo via PR Phuket

The “Phuket Sandbox” is still on, but the uptick in coronavirus infections pose a threat to the tourism experiment. Before the July 1 reopening, the government said it would reconsider the travel scheme if cases exceeded 90 Covid-19 infections. Over the past week, the island reported 125 new infections. With the weekly case count exceeding the government’s threshold, new restrictions have been imposed and will be in place until at least August 2.

For the next week, the shopping centres Central Festival and Central Floresta are closed for “cleaning purposes.” Gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited and people must practice social distancing at markets and walking streets. Restaurants must now close at 9pm. For more information on the new restrictions, click HERE.

Most of the new cases are local transmissions among residents. To enter Thailand under the “Phuket Sandbox,” travellers must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Since the reopening, 26 of the more than 11,800 travellers have tested positive for the virus.

For now, the “Sandbox” scheme will continue. Yesterday, Phuket’s Governor Narong Woonciew claimed that “the numbers are not a factor to discontinue the Sandbox.” Although Thailand is fighting its most severe wave of Covid-19 with the emergence of the Delta variant, infection rates in Phuket remain low in comparison to other provinces and 70% of the population in Phuket has been vaccinated against the virus.

President of the Tourism Council of Phuket, Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, says that with the uptick in cases, they are reducing local activities. He added that authorities will also impose more restrictions on travel and other measures before deciding to suspend the “Sandbox” programme.

“We’re entering a tightening mode and reducing local activities on the island, but we have several circuit breakers in place before there’s a suspension to the reopening programme… With the surge in infections, our focus right now is to assess the situation day-by-day and week-by-week.”

“Sealed Routes”

Despite the uptick in cases, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports plans to revise the conditions on the scheme and to cut the mandatory stay on the island to 7 days. Under the “Sealed Routes” proposal, travellers would be able to go to 5 other provinces after 7 days in Phuket. Currently, travellers need to stay on the island for 14 days and undergo a Covid-19 test before travelling.

The proposal still needs to be approved by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn told Nation Thailand that he recently consulted with the PM Prayut Chan-o-cha on the “Sealed Routes” project.

“Tourists will have to spend 7 days in Phuket and take the Covid-19 test twice, before they are allowed to travel through these sealed routes in 5 provinces, and get tested again on the 13th or 14th day of their stay. The 5 provinces are Krabi, Phang-nga, Samui which will be open for tourists in August, while Chiang Mai and Lamphun will be open in October.”

SOURCES: Bloomberg | Nation Thailand

Covid-19 NewsPhuket NewsThailand NewsTourism News

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Tanutam Thawan

Local Thai journalist speaking fluent Thai and English. Tanutam studied in Khon Kaen before attending Bangkok’s Chulalongkhorn University.

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