Phuket's sandbox 'could be better'

Phuket's sandbox 'could be better'

Phuket's sandbox tourism scheme is helping the province's economy recover although there is room for improvement, according to provincial governor Narong Wunsiew.

The governor said tourism-dependent Phuket's economy has shown signs of improving six days into the sandbox scheme launched on July 1.

From July 1-5, a total of 1,896 international travellers arrived in Phuket, mostly by air. Six commercial flights were due on Tuesday, bringing in another 236 overseas visitors.

According to reports, 217 visitors who arrived on July 1 booked hotel rooms in the island province. For dates July 1-15, there have been 13,116 hotel rooms reserved and each foreign traveller has booked stays for 12 nights on average.

Mr Narong said the economy has been spurred by visitors' spending. However, observers see Phuket's economic revival hanging on the authorities' ability to contain the virus.

The Department of Disease Control said that from July 1-5, there have been 17 new Covid-19 infection cases in Phuket.

The governor said the provincial office is not happy with the figure as it has set its goal of bringing infections down to zero.

"The [sandbox] scheme is not perfectly functional so far," he said, urging visitors to follow strict public health measures or they could be refused entry.

Sunthorn Sakdasavit, deputy director of Phuket International Airport, said travellers arriving at the airport must go through health screening and were required to download the Thailand Plus and Mor Chana apps.

After immigration and customs procedures, the incoming travellers have swab samples taken for RT-PCR testing.

They are then taken to their hotels where they wait 24 hours for the test results. If the results are negative, they will be able to go to other parts of the island.

If they are positive they are taken to hospital immediately.

Provincial police on Tuesday clarified details about three foreign visitors who went missing from the hotels they were meant to stay in for 24 hours.

An American businessman returned to the US to attend to an urgent business matter while a German man left his hotel to stay with his Thai wife in the province.

A third visitor, an 83-year-old Norwegian man who reportedly suffered from dementia, became lost. Both he and the German were returned to their hotel.

Pol Col Thanet Sukchai, head of Phuket immigration office, said the visitors are required to stay at the hotels they had registered in to await the swab test results.

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