Foreign tourists arriving in Phuket’s “sandbox” from Aug. 3 will be touching down on an island all-but-sealed off from the rest of Thailand where anything remotely entertaining closed down to prevent coronavirus cases from surging higher.
Gov. Narong Woonciew signed the order Thursday to shut out all domestic tourists or anyone else who are not students or are delivering freight, food or medicine to the island. Anyone hoping to gain entry via land, water or air msut be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The lockout is a last-ditch effort to keep the “sandbox” scheme going, but the tourism-promotion plan may die of its own accord based on the reviews from sandboxers who arrive for a “holiday” but have little to do but sit around their hotel pool.
In fact, the sandboxed tourists have not been the problem. To date, there have bee 12,395 arrivals – a large portion of them not tourists but, in fact, returning Thais and foreign expats – and only 30 who have tested positive for Covid-19, or 0.24 percent.
Yet, the government is now about to penalize the sandboxers again postponing plans to allow them to escape the their Phuket holding cells for islands in Phangnga and Krabi provinces after just seven days, instead of two weeks.
It’s not the vaccinated foreigners spreading the coronavirus, but they will pay the price. Phuket reported 148 coronavirus cases over the past week. All were brought in from other provinces, not overseas.
Some of those were Phuket residents who worked in provinces with high transmission rates and returned to Phuket province to seek medical treatment. Anyone returning will be forced into quarantine.
Officials said Phuket’s healthcare system is at 36 percent of capacity and can still handle new cases without serious cases that require ventilators.
For now, the sandbox goes on, but will be re-evaluated in two weeks.