Phuket beaches will reopen to tourists in ‘sandbox’ scheme

Thailand’s cabinet and health officials have approved a plan to reopen the beach resort island of Phuket to foreign tourists under a ‘sandbox’ system. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha supported the idea, saying Thailand must accept some risks from the pandemic.

Phuket is scheduled to reopen on July 1. If the sandbox proves successful, other resort islands would follow, including Koh Samui and Koh Pha-ngan.

A sandbox is essentially a small controlled area where policies can be tested and any adverse results contained in that space so as not to harm the general public. Central banks often create sandboxes to test new financial technologies.

Under the tourism sandbox system, vaccinated foreign visitors will be allowed to travel to Phuket without undergoing quarantine after arrival. However, they are required to stay in Phuket for 14 days before traveling around Thailand. If they want to leave Phuket in fewer than 14 days, they are required to fly back to their home countries by a direct flight.

Businesses in Phuket, along with businesses around the country that rely on tourists and other visitors, are hoping the sandbox will pave the way for a wider reopening of the country and economic recovery.

Thailand’s stringent measures and restrictions on travel and certain aspects of daily life have succeeded in containing COVID-19 to the level of an outbreak, as opposed to an epidemic.

Tourism directly accounts for about 10 to 12 percent of gross domestic product, and indirectly as much as 20 percent in the Kingdom.

The plan to reopen Phuket went through several drafts before receiving approval from the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration. Public health and medical professionals dominate the Center.

Provinces and other locations that wish to reopen to foreign visitors must also develop plans that can be evaluated and approved by the Center.

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