International tourists can still visit, but the Phuket Sandbox scheme now faces an uncertain future.
As Thailand’s Covid-19 infections surge to record numbers, Phuket governor Narong Woonciew has brought in tougher travel restrictions. From August 3 to 16, the island will be off-limits for visitors from other Thai provinces in a bid to keep out the highly infectious Delta variant that has taken hold in Bangkok and other hard-hit areas classed as “dark red” zones. Only students, emergency medical workers, and those bringing in essential goods will be exempt from the ban on domestic travelers; all must show proof that they have been fully vaccinated.
This is to ensure that the growing coronavirus outbreak elsewhere in Thailand does not jeopardize Phuket’s healthcare system or recent reopening to international tourists under the Phuket Sandbox scheme. Overseas visitors will not be affected by the new rules, and those who remain on the island at least 14 days will still be allowed to travel to other parts of Thailand. However, these travelers will not be permitted to re-enter Phuket unless they have been booked to leave the country on international flights from its airport.
The future of the Phuket Sandbox scheme now hangs in the balance. According to a report in the Bangkok Post, the director-general of Thailand’s Department of Disease Control Dr. Kajornsak Kaewjaras said health authorities would monitor the situation in Phuket over the next two weeks, looking at the number of Covid-19 patients being treated in the island’s hospitals to determine if the quarantine-free arrangement will be allowed to carry on. He added that out of the 12,395 overseas visitors who have arrived since the island’s reopening on July 1, only 30 (representing 0.2 percent of arrivals) have been infected with the virus and quarantined. The health official also said 148 coronavirus cases were recorded in Phuket over the past week, with all of those imported from other Thai provinces.