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Phuket to Stay Open to Foreign Tourists Despite Covid-19 Surge – Governor

'Sandbox' tourists arrive at Phuket International Airport.
'Sandbox' tourists arrive at Phuket International Airport.

Phuket will remain open to tourists under despite a surge in new Covid-19 infections, Gov. Narong Woosiew said Thursday.

In order to maintain the provincial economic recovery, local business operators are more concerned about the possibility of an island lockdown than the omicron coronavirus variant, he said.

From Jan. 1-3, 10,132 tourists arrived via the Phuket “sandbox” program, which Narong called “essential relief” for the island’s financial situation. That compares with about 500 a day in the early stages of the sandbox last year.

Phuket’s sandbox is the only one of 17 left operational by the government following cancellation of the Test & Go and nationwide sandbox scheme Dec. 21.

Deputy Gov. Phichet Panaphong said about 1 percent of 3,000-5,000 foreign tourists are being found infected with the coronavirus upon arrival.

Phuket has cooperated with 66 hotels that agreed to serve as “hospitels” to take in infected people with mild and moderate symptoms, said Phichet.

Meanwhile, Dr. Koosak Kookiatkul, head of the Phuket Public Health Office, revealed that the Covid-19 infection rate is getting higher among both Thais and foreigners when compared with the data collected a couple of weeks earlier.

The daily cases of new Covid-19 infections have been escalating from between 30 and 40 cases a day to more than 120 a day.

Phuket on Thursday reported 227 new Covid-19 cases, 46 from the sandbox and 10 among “Test & Go” arrivals.

Narong said Phuket must prepare 1,000 hospitel rooms and hotel isolation services to take in more cases, because a lot more foreign visitors are making their way to the island.