Early signs 'look good for sandbox'
The Phuket Sandbox scheme has shown positive signs during its first 15 days, with an estimated 18,000 travellers expected to have visited by the end of this month.
Deputy Phuket governor Piyapong Chuwong said that the scheme is an example of a successful collaboration between the government, the private sector and local residents.
"Tourist arrivals have given us hope. I think we are heading in the right direction. The main factor is health officials' ability to contain the outbreak. Support from local residents and Thais nationwide is also important,'' Mr Piyapong said.
Efforts to protect the health of local residents and promote economic recovery through the scheme have been well-balanced so far, he added.
"We are looking forward to full reopening. Phuket is quite safe now with few infections. Herd immunity has been created through vaccination. If the sandbox scheme is a success, it can be expanded to other provinces, which will help with economic recovery,'' Mr Piyapong said.
Phumkit Raktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, said the first 15 days of the sandbox scheme had been a trial of several systems.
Bookings by foreign tourists have increased, with about 18,000 foreign arrivals expected by the end of this month, exceeding the initial target of between 13,000 and 15,000, Mr Phumkit said, adding business operators have followed precautionary measures strictly.
"Hotels which have Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus hygiene standards certifications are actively working to meet health requirements,'' he said.
However, the sandbox scheme still needs further assessment, he said.
"We still cannot conclude that the sandbox scheme is perfect. We have set a 90-day framework for assessment. The first 15 days just passed. There are still areas where communication can be improved. We have to overcome problems along the way," Mr Phumkit said.
Teething problems arose during the first 15 days as some local residents initially feared that foreign visitors would import the virus. But local fear has now eased as the sandbox scheme has shown promising signs, he said.
A total of 5,473 foreign tourists visited Phuket from July 1-14.