More than 12,000 tourists have applied for a Certificate of Entry (COE) following the launch of the Phuket Sandbox tourism scheme and almost 6,000 have been approved, the Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.
The ministry was responding to media reports that the number of visitors on the first day of the island's reopening was below target, which ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat countered by explaining that no bookings could be taken prior to the announcement of the policy in the Royal Gazette legalising the return of tourists to the province.
Mr Tanee added that the ministry had been unable to approve a number of applicants whose documents were incomplete or who did not meet the programme's requirements regarding travel history or vaccination.
From July 1-8, 12,356 people applied for a COE through Thai embassies and consuls and as of July 8, 5,652 applications had been approved and 594 rejected. The remaining 6,110 have been asked to submit further documents.
As of Thursday, a total of 2,244 tourists had arrived in Phuket under the reopening scheme, which imposes a set of restrictions on all arrivals during their stay in Thailand, according to Mr Tanee.
All visitors must have resided in their countries for at least 21 days prior to arrival and must have presented the required documents which include a health insurance policy with a clause covering Covid-19 treatment, a certificate of vaccination, a negative RT–PCR Covid-19 test within 72 hours prior to departure and proof of payment for their accommodation.
The visitors, both Thai and foreign nationals, are also tested during their stay.
According to local authorities in Phuket, one tourist had tested positive since the scheme began.
The infected man arrived from the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday and underwent a swab test before travelling to his hotel.
He was admitted to hospital for treatment while other tourists in the group were required to begin a 14-day quarantine at a hotel facility provided by the province.
Under the tourism reopening scheme, foreign tourists who have been fully vaccinated are allowed to enter Phuket without having to undertake quarantine of any length. However, they are required to spend at least 14 days in Phuket before visiting other provinces.
The tourism industry in the Samui Plus model, which consists of Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao, has also been closely watching the Phuket Sandbox as it prepares for its own reopening on Thursday.
For both schemes, the government has said that should infections begin rising again at levels in excess of 15-20 cases per 100,000 people a week, it is ready to pull the plug and again close the kingdom's gates to new arrivals.