Phuket to reopen as planned

Phuket to reopen as planned

Phiphat: Hopefulabout reopening
Phiphat: Hopefulabout reopening

The government still intends to press ahead with its plan to reopen Phuket to foreign tourists on July 1, despite battling another surge of Covid-19 infections.

The government's committee on national tourism policy, chaired by Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, on Friday confirmed the plan -- made before the new outbreak of Covid-19 struck Bangkok and other parts of the country early last month -- will still be implemented.

The reopening would later be expanded to cover Krabi, Phangnga, Surat Thani, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Buri Ram, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Bangkok, said deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul.

The reopening plan will be divided into four phases -- the first phase has already been in place since April 1, when a number of foreign tourists with proof that they had been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 were allowed to enter Thailand provided they agreed to undergo a period of quarantine as imposed by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

The second phase called "Phuket Sandbox" is due to begin on July 1, when vaccinated tourists will be allowed to enter Thailand via Phuket, where they won't have to undergo any Covid-19 quarantine, said Ms Traisuree.

In the third phase, due to begin on Oct 1, the vaccinated tourists in Phuket will then be allowed to travel to Krabi, Phangnga, Surat Thani, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Buri Ram, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Bangkok without any new quarantine requirements.

The fourth and final phase, due to begin on Jan 1 next year, will allow any foreign tourists certified to have been fully vaccinated to be allowed to enter Thailand and freely travel around.

In 2019, before Covid-19 hit Thailand, those 10 provinces drew 39.9 million foreign tourists and racked up 1.5 trillion baht in income, accounting for 80% of the country's entire tourism revenue, said Ms Traisuree.

It is hoped the reopening plan will attract at least 3.5 million foreign tourists and generate 298.1 billion baht, she said.

The hope is that Phuket Sandbox demonstrates to the rest of the world that the resort island is safe to visit while at the same assuring local Thais that the country's tourism industry is on the road to recovery, said Tossaporn Sirisamphan, chairman of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) board.

Phuket governor Narong Wunsiew said Phuket's plan to vaccinate 60-70% of its population was now 22% complete, with 15,000 people getting jabs each day.

The province will next increase the number of vaccination venues from five to nine, in a bid to achieve its goal well before its scheduled July reopening, he said.

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