It’s been a tale of two years as far as the pandemic goes in Thailand. Their initial success in combating the spread of Covid-19 has evaporated, with the country this week setting new records for both the highest number of daily cases and deaths.
The country is trying its best to reopen, with the Phuket sandbox scheme bring in thousands of foreign tourists for the first time in months. However, recent positive test results and absconding by inbound travelers has cast the scheme into doubt, whilst the capital Bangkok goes into lockdown today. Here’s a look at the situation in Thailand, and what it could mean for the future of travel.
Phuket Sandbox Woes – Information for Travelers
Thailand is a country that relies heavily on tourism. Not only does the travel and tourism industry contribute more than 20% of the country’s total GDP, but it is also responsible for employing around 12% of the population. The lack of tourists visiting the country as a result of the pandemic has hit the country hard, which led to the government launching the Phuket sandbox scheme.
Launching on July 1st, the sandbox scheme allowed fully vaccinated travelers from low and medium-risk countries to visit the island of Phuket – Thailand’s largest island and one of its most popular destinations for tourists – without having to quarantine. Not only are they free to roam the island, but once they have been there for 14-days they are free to visit other destinations in the country.
The island has been welcoming its first major wave of foreign tourists since it launched, who have been greeted at the airports by scores of the press and welcoming dignitaries. However, a few problems in the past week has caused doubts to be raised about the future of the program.
A passenger on a flight from the UAE, arriving as part of a tour group, tested positive for Covid-19 at the airport, and became the first traveler entering as part of the scheme to do so. As a result, not only does the passenger have to stay in a quarantine facility, but the people who arrived as part of his tour group – as well as the taxi drivers and hotel staff he came into contact with – must also head into quarantine. Having to foot the bill for both the hotels they had booked and the quarantine they find themselves in, members of the tour group have asked to be able to fly home.
With similar sandboxes scheduled to launch on July 15th that will allow tourists to visit famous islands such as Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, the affair has dampened the confidence in the scheme amongst both Thai and foreign travelers, with many questioning whether it will last for much longer. To date, 3,287 travelers have entered Phuket as part of the sandbox and have booked a total of 155,736 nights in Phuket’s hotels.
Another incident that’s bound to knock the confidence of prospective travelers is the current situation in the capital, Bangkok. With cases rising, the city and several other provinces have gone into a mini-lockdown of sorts. This will include a curfew between 9PM and 4AM, as well as a closure of department stores, parks and curbs put on gatherings of more than 5 people, which will deprive inbound travelers of an authentic slice of life in Bangkok.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories