Phuket to press on with sandbox

Phuket to press on with sandbox

A plane carrying the first foreign tourists to Phuket after it reopened to overseas tourists receives a water cannon salute from fire trucks at the airport on July 1, 2021. (Reuters photo)
A plane carrying the first foreign tourists to Phuket after it reopened to overseas tourists receives a water cannon salute from fire trucks at the airport on July 1, 2021. (Reuters photo)

Phuket will persevere with its Phuket Sandbox tourism reopening scheme, despite escalating challenges associated with the rise in new Covid-19 infections, mostly infected locals who transferred from other provinces to receive treatment.

"I insist the Phuket Sandbox will continue as what has happened still doesn't affect the scheme," said provincial governor Narong Wunsiew.

Most of the about 20 new Covid-19 cases recorded each day were infected locals who had contracted the virus from elsewhere before being referred back to Phuket for treatment, he said.

Stricter Covid-19 control measures were being rolled out to contain local infections to prevent the situation from intensifying and eventually affecting the tourism reopening scheme, he said.

"Covid-19 control measures are being heightened especially when screening incoming visitors [from other provinces]. They now need to prove they have been vaccinated against, and test negative for, Covid-19," he said.

Whenever a new Covid-19 case is detected in Phuket, officials will try to identify all possible contacts of the case who will then be placed into quarantine to minimise the chances of a new cluster forming, he said.

"These stricter measures are crucial for ensuring continuity of the Phuket Sandbox, which has now brought about some positive signs for the province's economic recovery," he said.

New Covid-19 restrictions may hurt certain business activities, but they are crucial for protecting the public's interest, he said.

Meanwhile, a construction camp in Kathu district was yesterday sectioned off off for one month after 13 workers there were found to have Covid-19, said Peerapong Cheeplek, a public health chief at Kathu district.

Phuket's provincial communicable disease committee will step up Covid-19 control measures, including renewing in advance from Aug 3 to Aug 16 a temporary shutdown of places at high risk of triggering a new Covid-19 outbreak. These places include education institutions and tutorial schools, which were ordered to switch to conducting online classes instead.

Key shopping malls, including Central Phuket Festival and Central Phuket Floresta, are being instructed to have their staff and workers at shops inside them undergo a Covid-19 test using rapid antigen test kits, as well as to have all parts of their buildings disinfected.

All football and futsal pitches, and badminton courts are being shut, while markets are being told to limit the number of visitors to one person per four square metres. A public gathering of more than 100 people at a time is prohibited.

Dr Kusak Kukiattikun, the chief health officer of Phuket, said about 600 rooms are designated as Covid-19 quarantine facilities, of which 450 are occupied and the rest still sufficient.

So far there have been no cases of Covid-infected tourists from the Phuket Sandbox programme passing on the virus to locals, he said. In most cases of infection, it was Thai tourists who visited Phuket in groups that spread the virus among them. As of Tuesday, Phuket had 38 new cases of Covid-19.

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