Phuket to seal off from domestic visits amid COVID surge, “sandbox” for overseas arrivals still underway

A medical worker prepares Covid-19 coronavirus swab test for international passengers arriving for the “Phuket Sandbox” tourism scheme that allows vaccinated visitors at Phuket International Airport in Phuket on July 1, 2021.

The southern resort island of Phuket will seal off from domestic visits from August 3rd – 16th, according to a Phuket provincial order dated today (Thursday), amid rising COVID-19 infections across Thailand that have slipped through the island as well.

“Phuket needs to come up with measures that aim to reduce and restrict movements to contain the spread within the limit and level that public health systems can accommodate,” reads the announcement.

The order bars domestic arrivals from land, sea, and air with the exception of ambulances, rescue vehicles, transports of medicines and medical supplies, transports of consumer goods, agricultural produce, livestock, fuel and gas, banks’ cash, parcels and printed materials, international air departures, officials working to bring the pandemic under control and those with urgent assignments.

The “Phuket Sandbox” project, in which fully vaccinated and COVID-negative international arrivals are allowed into Thailand through Phuket beginning on July 1st, will not be affected, but the Phuket Extension program which allows visitors to Phuket to island hop to Surat Thani, Krabi and Phang Nga after a minimum of seven days in Phuket, has been postponed from August 1st, according to Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn. The earliest date could be August 15th, according to Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Tanee Sangrat.

Phuket’s daily infections rose from single digits to two last week, and stayed between 18-28 cases per day over the past week. It has logged a total of 1,016 cases in the current wave since April, compared to 145,223 in Bangkok which is seeing a few new thousand cases a day. The island has the highest ratio of vaccinated population in the country as about 90% of the locals have received their first vaccine jabs, while 70% are fully vaccinated.

According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), when the hospital bed occupancy in Phuket reaches 80%, the “sandbox” project may be suspended or cancelled, but the rate is currently only 30%.


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