- Özgür Töre
As both the Phuket Sandbox and Samui Plus programs continue, Krabi and Phang Nga will also start welcoming fully vaccinated international tourists in August.
Mr. Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, Spokesperson of the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA), said the Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha had been keeping a close watch on the Phuket Sandbox and Samui Plus programmes, and voiced confidence in the plans to revive the economy through tourism by gradually reopening destinations that could ensure the health and safety of both the tourists and local people.
The new COVID-19 cases in Phuket were cited as mostly detected among locals, construction camp workers and domestic travellers with only a small number of cases found among international arrivals.
From 1 July until 1 August, 2021, Phuket recorded 14,910 international arrivals under the Sandbox programme. Of these, 34 tested positive for COVID-19 and had been sent for medical treatment.
To contain local transmission, Phuket has stepped up screening measures on domestic travellers, effective from 3-16 August, 2021. The measures are only meant to prevent the spread of the disease from other Thai provinces, while international arrivals under the Sandbox programme can still enter Phuket per the existing rules and regulations.
Meanwhile, the recent report of 54 new cases on Ko Samui from a restaurant cluster has been brought under control, and that none of the infections were related to foreign tourists under the Samui Plus programme or those who continued their journey from the Phuket Sandbox programme.
From 15 July to 1 August, Surat Thani recorded 137 international arrivals under the Samui Plus programme, with 1 person testing positive for COVID-19. In addition, there were 211 tourists from the Phuket Sandbox programme.
Surat Thani also stepped up COVID-19 control measures, effective from the last week of July until further notice, to safeguard the ‘Samui Plus’ model.
Krabi and Phang Nga are scheduled to reopen selected areas within this month under a 7+7 model. This will allow foreign tourists under the Sandbox programme to reduce the mandatory stay in Phuket from 14 to 7 days, after which another 7 nights can be spent in Krabi (Ko Phi Phi, Ko Ngai, and Railay Beach), and Phang Nga (Khao Lak and Ko Yao).
The 7+7 model aims to provide international tourists with more options to visit multiple destinations during their trip to Thailand. Krabi and Phang Nga are ideal for this given their proximity to and ease of access from Phuket.
For Phang Nga, Khao Lak can be reached within 1.5 hours by car, while Ko Yao Noi and Ko Yao Yai can be reached within 30-40 minutes by boat from Bang Rong Pier.
For Krabi, Ko Phi Phi, Ko Ngai and Railay Beach can be reached within 45-55 minutes from Rassada Pier.
Phuket, Krabi, and Phang Nga are declared among the 11 Controlled Areas or orange zone provinces in Thailand’s expansion of the COVID-19 restrictions from 3-31 August, 2021.