Precarious Phuket: open internationally, closed domestically

FILE PHOTO: Entry into Phuket is 2 different worlds depending if you are domestic or international.

Phuket has become like one island but 2 different worlds, depending on your vantage point. A look at the news over the past few days has been a dizzying mix of the Phuket Sandbox pushing forward, some successes in statistically low Covid-19 infection and death, especially compared to the rest of Thailand, a green light for the Sandbox to continue despite obstacles, and the island sealing off to outsiders.

Announcements regarding the Sandbox being allowed to continue under close supervision came within hours of government orders essentially banning all domestic travel to the island. Now, your chances of travelling to Phuket are very much dependent on whether you are an international traveller or a domestic one.

Last night, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew declared the sealing of Phuket province from all domestic entry beginning August 3. Exceptions will be made for a few circumstances, mainly transporting necessities like medical supplies and emergency patients, food, agriculture and livestock, gas, money, paper goods, and constructions supplies, as well as people with schooling on the island, flight tickets for approved travel, vaccine appointments, court appointments, and necessary government officials.

Even those who are exempted are still required to show proof of vaccination and a recent RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen test at the entry checkpoints. These requirements match those for international travellers, but the other limitations on who can come are much more lenient.

The Phuket Sandbox has been feeling the pressure as the rolling 7-day Covid-19 infection total is 148, well over the self-imposed threshold of 90 per week that would trigger a re-evaluation of the programme. But with only 30 of those cases being from international Sandbox travellers out of 12,395 total arrivals, the infection rate for international travellers is 0.2% and officials say the Sandbox can continue on. The Department of Disease Control says they need to carefully observe the situation for 2 weeks to see if the closure of the Sandbox program is needed while domestic travel is already closing.

Phuket’s healthcare and hospital system are still in strong shape with only 36% of resources in use currently. No cases have required ventilators so far. Some of the 148 cases in the past week were Phuket residents infected outside the province and returning home for medical treatment. High-risk infections were moved to local quarantine facilities.

Phuket currently has 450 rooms ready for isolation and quarantine, but each tambon in Phuket was asked to make contingency plans in case of a surge to identify rooms that could be converted to provide up to 1,500 quarantine rooms. 800 work camps in Phuket have been sealed as a precaution as well, though no infections have been reported. Local officials are hoping infections will ease but preparing for a surge in an attempt to keep the Sandbox afloat.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

Covid-19 NewsPhuket News

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Neill Fronde

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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