Thai Government Approves Phuket’s COVID-19 Sandbox Plan

The Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA) has approved the Phuket Sandbox plan, an important step forward after months of debating whether it would happen. The recent announcement appears to answer the frequently-asked question of whether the Sandbox plan would ever materialize after the much more intense and deadly third wave of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Following this huge step forward, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration will likely approve the Phuket Sandbox proposal by June 7, followed June 8th by the Thai cabinet and then by publication in the Royal Gazette, Thailand’s official announcement format.

Phuket International Airport will then be opened to foreign travellers as proposed by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

In the announcement, a few key questions are clarified. On your way to Phuket, it appears that transit through Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) will be permitted. This opens up more options for flights into Thailand. Also, travellers arriving in Phuket will need to stay a minimum of 2 weeks before travelling on to other parts of Thailand, doubling the original 7 days that had been expected.

The government will not allow tourists to take excursions like Koh Phi Phi or Phang Nga Bay day trips. In fact, the only way to leave the island within those 14 days is to fly out of Phuket airport.

The official rules for reopening the Phuket Sandbox state that international travellers must be immunized for at least two weeks before entering Thailand. However, the vaccination cannot be older than 1 year. Passengers must originate from a low-to-medium-risk country. The travellers will be allowed to enter Phuket without any quarantine or self-isolation if all these conditions are met.

Phuket, the largest island in Thailand (about the same size as Singapore), is the largest island where you can travel throughout your 14 days.

A big question mark throughout the entire development of the Phuket Sandbox program has been how children will be handled. CESA guidelines state that children under 6 years old, as well as those travelling with vaccinated parents, will be able to enter without restrictions. A rapid antigen Covid-19 test will be administered to those aged 6 to 18 as soon as they arrive at Phuket International Airport.

It was also debated as to which vaccines would be accepted in Thailand. This announcement by the CESA concluded that the vaccine brand must be either one approved by the Thai FDA (currently Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Sinopharm) or one certified by the World Health Organisation.

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