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Phuket ‘Sandbox’ on Edge of Axe as Covid-19 Cases Rise another 234

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Phuket’s “sandbox” foreign-tourism program is dancing on the blade of the axe as the island province deals with more than 200 new coronavirus cases a day among the local population.

None of the new cases have been imported by the fully vaccinated foreigners and Thais arriving under the “sandbox” program, which allows for quarantine-free arrival, although the “tourists” are confined to Phuket or Phangna Province islands for two weeks. Fewer than 0.3 percent of all arrivals since July 1 have tested positive for Covid-19.

Instead, the surge is being fueled by construction workers, fishing crewmen, workers at wet markets and prison inmates, despite claims that 70 percent of the local population is fully vaccinated.

Phuket on Wednesday reported another 234 cases, which has been the daily average for more than a week. Currently, 2,933 people are in hospitals or field hospitals. Thailand overall reported 14,176 cases and 228 deaths, up slightly from the past two days.

Phuket Gov. Narong Woonciew noted Sept. 6 that 85 percent of the new cases were “green-coded” asymptomatic patients. But the government’s insistence on warehousing them in hospitals or field hospitals – instead of letting them isolate at home – is putting a strain on medical resources.

Local authorities were working out solutions to save hospital beds for yellow and red-coded patients.

Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn said after 900 Covid-19 cases were found at an isolated construction camp that the sandbox reopening project would continue, but cases have already surpassed previously announced limits on weekly cases that officials said would require suspension of the tourism project.

If cases continue to rise, the sandbox could be closed.