Posts Tagged ‘Phuket’

The COVID-19 Sandbox Plan in Phuket Could Be Suspended Soon

July 28, 2021

Thailand’s first tourism hotspot to waive quarantine for vaccinated foreign visitors is facing a spike in COVID-19 cases, which could endanger the experiment seen as a model for other tourism-dependent nations to open their borders.
During the week ending July 27, 2921, the resort island reported 125 new Covid-19 cases, higher than the government’s threshold of 90 cases that could trigger a temporary suspension of the program. Local authorities closed public schools and shopping malls and banned gatherings of more than 100 people recently in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
Local residents accounted for the majority of new infections, and all high-risk contacts on the island have been isolated to prevent further spread, officials said. Since the so-called Phuket Sandbox was launched on July 1, 2021, only 26 vaccinated visitors have tested positive for the virus out of more than 11,800.
Covid resurgence in Phuket mirrors the situation elsewhere in Thailand and Southeast Asia, where authorities are struggling to contain the outbreak fuelled by the more contagious delta variant. A setback to the quarantine-free travel in Phuket could jeopardize the government’s plan to expand the model to more islands and beach resorts to save the tourism industry.
As authorities are watching for more signs of infection spread, it may still be too early to suspend the Phuket model. Official data show that 70% of Phuket’s population is fully immunized, compared to about 5% nationally.
“We are entering a tightening mode and reducing local activities on the island, but we have several circuit breakers in place before the reopening program is suspended,” said Thaneth Tantipiriyakij, president of the Tourism Council of Phuket. Currently, we are assessing the situation day-by-day and week-by-week with the surge in infections.
After the emergence of the third wave of Covid infections in early April, the country has seen an unprecedented surge of Covid infections and deaths. Thailand’s key economic centers, including Bangkok, have been subjected to strict restrictions on inter-provincial travel and on most business activities.
In addition to the 90 weekly-case limit, other triggers for Phuket Sandbox suspension include detection of infections in all three districts on the island or more than six sub-districts; identification of more than three clusters; and the use of 80% of hospital capacity.
According to Thaneth, authorities will restrict travel routes or impose a temporary ban on tourists leaving hotels before considering a full suspension. In the coming days, officials will review the situation and decide if additional tightening measures are needed, he said.

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The Phuket COVID-19 Sandbox Program Starts Today

July 1, 2021

On July 1, 2021, the Phuket Tourism Sandbox, a pilot phase of Thailand’s ambitious tourism reopening plan, will open on the resort island amid hope and fear.

Many businesses rely heavily on tourism to boost their profit margins, but locals fear that the pro-tourism program may result in a new outbreak of Covid-19.

In the third quarter of this year from July to September, Phuket is expected to attract over 100,000 foreign tourists, generating about 8.9 billion baht in tourism revenue.

Four hundred twenty-six passengers and three thousand sixteen hundred outbound travellers will use 426 flights in July. Anucha Burapachaisri, a government spokesman, said the southern island province will average 13 flights per day.

According to Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), 249 tourists are scheduled to arrive in Thailand Thursday on flights from Israel, Abu Dhabi and Qatar under the Phuket Sandbox programme.

He said the tourists will remain in Phuket for at least 14 days, during which they will undergo two more Covid-19 tests to ensure they are free of Coronavirus.

Phuket hopes to strike a balance between driving the economy with tourism and controlling the spread of Covid-19 from July 1, according to provincial governor Narong Wunsiew.

According to him, foreign visitors arriving in Phuket under the Phuket Sandbox programme are not the ones worrying the province when it comes to outbreak containment. Those who will arrive in the province by land from within Thailand.

The Chatchai security checkpoint, the main Covid-19 checkpoint on the road leading to Phuket, still needs more staff and technology to ensure that everyone entering the island is thoroughly screened, he said.

“Only those with proof of vaccination against Covid-19 will be allowed into Phuket,” he said.

Under the tourism sandbox programme, Patong beach appears to be the most popular destination for foreign tourists.

He said 1,671 visitors had booked 383 rooms at hotels in the Patong beach area.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will visit Phuket on July 1, 2021.

On arrival at Phuket international airport, he will greet and welcome foreign tourists and visit the security checkpoint.

Local health group president Manot Saithong said that according to an online survey of 1,112 residents, the most common concern is that tourists under the tourism sandbox programme could bring a more virulent variant of the coronavirus into the province and cause a new outbreak.

Foreign tourists also have doubts about whether they will strictly follow the control measures imposed on them by Covid-19, Manot said.

Thailand has also raised doubts over the effectiveness of Covid-19 screening among Thai tourists, he said, adding that if a new outbreak occurs in Phuket, young people will be affected since they are the only group of the population without vaccination.

Don Limnanthaphisit, president of a club of residents in Phuket’s old town, has called for stricter Covid-19 screening at all schools for students who may have contracted the virus from their parents who might have contracted it from tourists.

Thanusak Phuengdet, president of Phuket’s Chamber of Commerce, estimates that 13 billion baht will be generated in tourism-related income if all 100,000 foreign tourists who have already booked their visits to Phuket in the next three months actually come, he said.

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Thai Bits: Phuket Revives Amazing Thailand Plan, Thailand Airways Will Have Flights To and From Europe To Phuket

June 7, 2021

Phuket Government Is Reviving An Amazing Thailand Plan

According to the Phuket government, businesses can now flaunt their relative vaccination status to customers if they have a certificate with a literal plus.
Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration aka SHA offers the SHA Plus certification through an online application.
All businesses and venues that are 70% inoculated were urged to sign up for the certificate.
In a report, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) praised the program, saying: “The website uses digital technology to establish a smart data system that tracks the vaccination records of staff at each business.”
It can analyse the large amount of aggregate data and provide insights as to which establishment already has at least 70% of staff inoculated and can be awarded the ‘SHA Plus’
These Amazing Thailand SHA-certified establishments are encouraged to apply for the ‘SHA Plus’ Certificate. This is because one of the proposed conditions under the Phuket Sandbox model is that fully vaccinated foreign visitors are required to stay in a ‘SHA Plus’ accommodation and must show proof of the booking at such establishments when applying for the ‘Certificate of Entry’ or COE.
Further information on the initiative can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/Shaplusphuket/
You may remember when Amazing Thailand launched its SHA in May 2020.

Thailand Airways Announces That It Will Have Flights To and From Europe After July 1 2021

As several airlines in the Middle East announce reopenings of flights to Phuket on July 1, 2021 Thai Airways has finally announced plans to fly into and out of Phuket from Europe. Airlines are scheduling flights as the Phuket Sandbox plan nears official approval. Starting July 2, 2021, Thai Airways will offer direct flights from five European cities.
The airline announced on its Facebook page that Thai Airways will operate flights to Phuket from London, Paris, Frankfurt, Copenhagen, and Zurich. From July 2, 2021, Thai Airways is also planning to fly from Hong Kong to Phuket.
The Phuket-London route may face difficulties if Nick Thomas-Symonds has his way, as the Shadow Home Secretary of the United Kingdom has called for Thailand to be added to the Red List, which would make it illegal for Thai citizens to enter the U.K.
Thailand Airways’ flights will coincide with the opening of Phuket’s sandbox to fully vaccinated international tourists, which has recently passed the first step of the government’s review process. Cabinet is expected to approve the plan tomorrow, after which it will be published in the Royal Gazette, making it officially approved.
Despite the reopening having many advantages, such as transit via Bangkok and clarifying the rules for children traveling, the main caveat that prompted criticism is the extension of the stay from 7 days to 14 days that arrivals must stay on Phuket. Tourists will be allowed to wander free from a full quarantine, but they will be forbidden from leaving the island, even on popular day excursions to nearby islands.
Recent announcements of Phuket flight schedules by several airlines follow Thai Airways’ announcement. Qatar Airways announced first, with four scheduled flights a week. Emirates Airways and Etihad Airlines followed suit the next day, each offering three flights a week. Phuket will only be on KLM’s flight schedules starting in October, which was a bit more hesitant.

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Thai Government Approves Phuket’s COVID-19 Sandbox Plan

June 5, 2021

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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The Thai Aviation Authority Has Issued Rules For International Tourists Who Want To Go To Phuket After July 1st, 2021

June 3, 2021

The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand has issued some specific rules for international travelers flying into Phuket after July 1. The Tourism Authority of Thailand recently announced more general rules for international tourists traveling within Thailand. Despite the current surge of cases and new cases still appearing daily in Phuket, TAT and the island remain determined to reopen under the Sandbox plan, a plan the Phuket government has put forward to reopen the island to international tourists.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) will evaluate Phuket’s preparedness and report to the cabinet for a meeting on June 4th, 2021, to approve or deny the July 1, 2021 reopening.

Flight rules require all passengers arriving in Phuket from abroad to be fully vaccinated, receiving two doses of those required vaccines. One notable exception is AstraZeneca, which does not require a traveler to have had two jabs for just this brand.

Natural immunity is another exception to the requirement of vaccination immunity. If you have documentation that you have recovered from a Covid-19 infection within the 90 days before your arrival, you will be allowed entry. All passengers will be required to provide documentation confirming that they have been tested for Covid-19 within the last 7 days and have returned a negative result.

Those who attempt to board a plane without showing the required documents – proof of a negative test within a week and either 1 AstraZeneca shot, full inoculation, or full recovery from Covid-19 within the past 3 months – will be refused to board.

Children are exempt from these tight restrictions implemented to allow international travelers to return to Thailand. If they are properly vaccinated or meet the other requirements, children under the age of five will be exempt from the flight rules.

There have been meetings to determine Phuket’s readiness for reopening before the CCSA presents its report to the Cabinet, as well as to take into account public opinion. The officials are meeting with hotels, transportation, restaurants, and other tourism-related businesses as well as with other local business operators to determine opinions on the reopening on July 1, 2021.

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Thai Bits: New Thai COVID-19 Loan Bill, Phuket July 1st Opening No Matter What, Startups in Thailand

May 25, 2021

New Thai COVID-19 Loan Bill Becomes Law

In response to the third wave of infections, the Royal Gazette reported that the King has approved a bill allowing loans of up to 500 billion baht.
The amount borrowed was less than the 700 billion baht approved earlier this month by the cabinet.
Mass vaccinations will be conducted in Hua Hin ahead of Prachuap Khiri Khan’s reopening to foreign tourists in October 2921.

Opening Phuket on July 1 still planned

On July 1st, 2021, the government plans to open Phuket to vaccinated tourists from countries where COVID-19 is not widespread. Currently, visitors arriving by air or land must provide proof that they have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. They are required to undergo rapid antigen tests, or reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT- PCR) tests, at their place of origin, and to register on http://www.gophuget.com and the MorChana application. If you do not have a vaccination certificate and have not taken a swab test, you will be quarantined for 14 days. If they plan to spend only three days in Phuket, they are required to stay in home quarantine for the three days.

The number of local startups drops but investment rises

From 41 startups in 2019, there were 30 in 2020, but the amount invested jumped to US$364 million (11.4 billion baht) from $109 million in 2019. During the first five months of this year, 13 investment deals worth $24.2 million have been made with local startups, most of which are associated with fintech, education technology, healthcare, and energy and electric vehicles.

Phuket Has A Day Without Any New COVID-19 Infections

May 21, 2021

Recently, Phuket had a day without any new COVID-19 infections. This is the first during the latest pandemic wave.
Phuket’s provincial public health office celebrated the decline in daily cases on Facebook. Phuket is enforcing tight restrictions and accelerating vaccinations ahead of the reopening to foreign tourists in July.
The Phuket Health Office’s Facebook post read:
Today’s total of new infections is “0”
It’s “0” because today we work together.
It’s “0” because everyone sacrifice.
It’s “0” because everyone loves Phuket too.
Be “ 0” because of all of us.
Thank you from the heart.
As of this morning, 124 Covid-19 patients were either receiving medical treatment or were under supervision in Phuket. Phuket has only reported one death resulting from Coronavirus, a 71-year-old man with emphysema.
The number of Infections in Phuket are 76 cases in Wichit, 59 cases in Patong, 59 cases in Phuket Town, 55 cases in Rassada, 45 cases in Cherng Talay, 44 cases in Kathu, 42 cases in Chalong, 34 cases in Kamala, 31 cases in Rawai, 31 cases in Srisoonthorn, 28 cases in Thepkrasattri, 28 cases in Karon, 22 cases in Koh Kaew, 10 cases in Pa Khlok, 9 cases in Mai Khao, and 8 cases in Sakhu.
In Phuket, disease control measures are strict. Any type of “parties,” even small, private gatherings with friends, is forbidden at least until the end of the month. Those entering the province must spend 14 days in quarantine unless they have been vaccinated or demonstrate that their Covid-19 test results were negative 72 hours before arrival. Non-compliant foreigners may be deported.
The island of Phuket is vaccinating residents in an effort to reach herd immunity and reopen the island to vaccinated foreign tourists by July 1, 2021. So far, 22% of the population has been vaccinated.

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A New Solution To Stop COVID-19 in Phuket: Go After Expats Who Drink Beer

May 17, 2021

It seems that Phuket officials are so concerned about disease control orders banning parties and gatherings with friends, especially when alcohol is involved, that they’re searching for 4 foreigners who were caught drinking beer in a Rawai restaurant.

Based on a complaint from a woman who works for the district office, police raided the restaurant. The photos as well as a video showing a group of four foreign men and two Thai women were sent to the police showing their presence at Roxanne restaurant while she was out campaigning for face masks for locals.

Officials from the Muang District Office and Rawai Municipality also attended the restaurant. According to reports, men were seen leaving the restaurant on motorcycles just as 10 police officers and public officials arrived. The beer was still on the table when police arrived.

Officers took the owner of the restaurant and four of his employees to the Chalong Police Station. The owner faces charges of violating the provincial order that prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol on the premises.

Just last week, police raided a home in Cherngtalay, breaking up a gathering of six people. Two UK citizens working in Phuket were fined 6,000 baht, while another four individuals are still waiting to appear at the police station.

As part of disease control measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and to prepare Phuket for a possible Covid-free reopening in July, officials have banned social activities and gatherings, except for traditional events like funerals. Foreigners who break the rules could be deported.

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Phuket Is Getting HIt Hard By COVID-19

May 6, 2021

According to an epidemiologist at Phuket’s main government hospital, Vachira Phuket Hospital, there could be a shortage of ICU beds soon.
A live press conference was held by the governor of Phuket this morning where the doctor explained that with the spread of the B.117 variant, which is more contagious, the number of beds will increase rapidly as infection numbers rise across the province.
One-third of infections in COVID-19 in Phuket have pneumonia symptoms, while only 10% of patients have severe symptoms (light pneumonia) while 30% have light signs (no pneumonia), and 50% have no signs at all. Still, the health care system may be overwhelmed with even 10% of cases.
At the government hospital, there are 200 beds available, but only 19 ICU beds for severe cases. ICU beds are already half full and the number of pneumonia patients who may need those beds soon is growing rapidly. A bed occupancy of 80 percent is a critical situation in the ICU.
Experts warn that Phuket must slash the number of new infections immediately to avoid an ICU bed shortage catastrophe.
Health officials will expand proactive screening to other at-risk areas, including Rawai, Cherng Talay, and Mai Khao, and hope that proactive screening will be more effective than asking people to take self quarantines for 14 days.
Currently, Phuket has received 476 people for Covid-19, and all but 1 are from the province. 253 have been discharged from the hospital, and the remaining patients are spread between seven hospitals, while an additional 73 are receiving treatment at field hospitals.
Recently, outbreaks have spread to different locations, like The Town of Phuket, Cherng Talay, Wichit, and Rassada currently marked as hotspots.
The government is encouraging people to call 191 to report areas that may have many infections. The governor promised that medical staff would then provide proactive testing and treat those with Covid-19 already to slow the spread of the disease and prevent an ICU bed shortage in Phuket.

Here are the latest figures for infections around Phuket:

Wichit ‒ 48 infections
Patong ‒ 45
Phuket Town 44 (Talad Yai 27, Talad Neua 17)
Rassada ‒ 44
Cherng Talay ‒ 43
Kathu ‒ 38
Chalong ‒ 34
Kamala ‒ 32
Srisoonthorn ‒ 29
Rawai ‒ 26
Thepkrasattri ‒ 19
Koh Kaew ‒ 13
Pa Khlok ‒ 10
Mai Khao ‒ 8
Sakhu ‒ 8
Karon ‒ 7

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Thai Bits: COVID-19 Is Going to Hurt Economy in 2021, A COVID-19 Test Story in Phuket

May 3, 2021

COVID-19 is not just bad for Thais, it is bad for the Thai economy as well.
In recent months, the economic forecast for Thailand has been lowered to 2.3 percent as the outlook for tourism remains really poor as Thailand is experiencing a COVID-19 third wave.
The Thai Ministry of Finance’s Fiscal Policy Office forecast a 4.5 percent economic growth in 2021. This was partly based on the fact that COVID-19 appears to be weakening.
2.4 percent. In May 2021, it has dropped to 2.3 percent. By January 2021, the second wave had hit Thailand and the Ministry changed its predictions to 2.8 percent.
The Thai economic forecast assumes the Thai government will propose a stimulus package between May 2021 and the end of the fiscal year on September 30th.
According to the Finance Ministry, there is the hope of an economic recovery in the fourth quarter of the year. This could mean Thailand ends the year 2021 with 2.8 percent growth.
During the first two waves, Thailand did relatively well. However, the third wave has infected many more people in Thailand and the vaccine rollout has been slow. A positive effect from the global economic recovery is being undermined by COVID-19. The Thai economy may lose 100 million Thai baht per month for the rest of 2021.
Thai exports declined by 6.6 percent in 2020. The thriving export sector could achieve as high as 11 percent in 2021.
As much as 12 percent of the Thai economy comes from tourism in a mon-COVID-19 year. Tourism brought in 2 trillion baht in 2019. In 2020, there were delays in reopening to tourists on a large scale.
In total, 6.7 million tourists had arrived in Thailand by 2020. This caused a drastic 83 percent drop in tourism revenue in 2020. The only good thing was that a lot of Chinese tourists came.
At the time when they were more optimistic, they had more plans to open Phuket and tourist spots by July 1st, with Thailand fully open in October. Those plans were dashed by the new pandemic outbreak and tourist projections of two million had been revised downward. This could be a serious blow to the economy.

A Phuket COVID-19 Test Story

Just a heads up for people.
Yesterday we entered Phuket with our family and had to do a rapid Covid19 test. My son (10 years old Dutch/Thai passport holder) also had to do the test.
As expected they charged me 500 Baht but ALSO wanted to charge my son 500 Baht. The reasoning was that he had an English name and didn’t had a Thai ID card (he only has a Thai passport). After about a good 15 minutes of back and forth, they decided they were not going to charge my Thai son. However, it was a very unpleasant experience.
So a heads up for ex-pats with half children, expect some problems if they don’t have their Thai ID card.
Stay safe!

By Tobie Oud