PM urges caution as Phuket gears to reopen

PM urges caution as Phuket gears to reopen

CCSA gives nod to 'Sandbox' schemes

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on Friday agreed in principle to the pilot plan to reopen Phuket on July 1 and later on Surat Thani's popular islands -- Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao -- to fully vaccinated tourists from some countries.

However, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in his capacity as head of the CCSA's main committee stressed at yesterday's meeting the need to cautiously proceed with the reopening plan while maintaining a good balance between preventing new Covid-19 infections and steering the economy, said Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the CCSA.

Dr Taweesilp said under the Phuket Tourism Sandbox programme, tourists from countries with low or medium risk of Covid-19 transmission will be allowed to enter Phuket starting next month. However, they must be fully vaccinated and spend two weeks on the island before they can travel to other parts of the kingdom, he said.

"These tourists will also be required to show proof of vaccination and agree to allow Thai authorities to track their locations using the English version of the Mor Chana application while staying in Phuket for at least 14 days, during which they will also be required to be tested for Covid-19," Dr Taweesilp said.

"Only those departing early from Thailand will be exempt from the [mandatory] 14-day stay," he said.

As for Surat Thani's tourism reopening programme, tourists will only be allowed to stay at hotels or resorts offering the so-called alternative local quarantine (ALQ) services, he said.

Tourists will be allowed to leave their rooms but must remain on the premises of the hotel where they stay from the first day until the third day of their 14-day quarantine period before they are allowed to travel to areas designated specifically as a tourism sandbox on Koh Samui from the fourth day until the seventh day, Dr Taweesilp said.

And from the eighth day to the last day of the special quarantine period, they will be allowed to travel freely on Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, he said.

Upon completing the required 14-day stay, tourists in either Phuket or Surat Thani who test negative for Covid-19 will then be allowed to visit other parts of Thailand, he said.

"The CCSA also requires a contingency plan to be put in place for implementation in the event Phuket's pilot tourism reopening needs to be suspended or terminated due to an unexpected severe Covid-19 situation," Dr Taweesilp said.

"And under the same contingency plan, actions must be ready at four levels to respond to any unforeseen Covid-19 outbreak, namely scale down tourism activities previously allowed, seal off tourism routes previously allowed, adopt new hotel quarantining and revise and stop Phuket's tourism Sandbox programme in the worst-case scenario." However, if the pilot phase of the programme in Phuket proves successful, the plan will be expanded to cover nine other tourist destinations, namely Phangnga, Krabi, Koh Samui in Surat Thani, Pattaya City in Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Cha-am district of Phetchaburi, Hua Hin district of Prachuap Khiri Khan and Buri Ram, said Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob.

Phumkit Raktae-ngam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, said Phuket, Phangnga and Krabi are discussing a proposal to expand the programme.

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