International Visitors Return With Start of Phuket Sandbox

Four flights carrying 249 passengers together are scheduled to arrive in Phuket today, following plans to reopen the province to foreign tourists under the long-awaited Sandbox model, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

Taweesilp Visanuyothin, a spokesman for the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), said the Tourism and Sports Ministry coordinated their arrival.

The flights, which will bring visitors from many countries but mainly from Israel and the United Arab Emirates, would kick off the Phuket Sandbox reopening model, Dr. Taweesilp explained. He reaffirmed that the authorities had implemented strict measures to execute the plan, ensuring that COVID-19 is under control.

The government has previously explained that travelers must have five documents before boarding the flight to Thailand.

The requirements are a certificate of entry (CoE), COVID-19 insurance of at least $100,000, a medical certificate confirming negative coronavirus test issued no more than 72 hours before the flight (except for children under six years), evidence of payment for accommodation, and COVID-19 testing, and certificates proving two-dose COVID-19 vaccination at least 14 days before traveling.

According to Dr. Taweesilp, visitors can travel directly to Phuket through Suvarnabhumi Airport.

But they must undergo a COVID-19 test upon arrival. Besides, if tourists want to travel to other provinces, they must stay in Phuket for 14 days and test negative for COVID-19 in two subsequent tests within that period. The Royal Gazette published the updated measures on Wednesday, also mentioning that tourists must come from the 66 countries that have been presented by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha would visit the island on Thursday to inspect the sandbox’s implementation.

Gen Prayut would also welcome tourists at Phuket airport, he added. The spokesperson also explained that the TAT expected 100,000 foreign visitors to arrive on the island during the third quarter of this year, generating an estimated domestic revenue of 8.9 million baht.

During this month, 426 flights would serve 8,281 inbound passengers and 3,613 outbound travelers, with the southern island province having 13 flights per day on average, Mr. Anucha stated.

The spokesperson reaffirmed that the Phuket sandbox could be delayed or canceled at any time if the province logs more than 90 new COVID-19 cases per week in any of its three districts or if more than six sub-districts report more than three infection clusters each.

Prasat Boontantrapiwat, head of Phuket Operators Club, said the number of Thai and migrant workers in Phuket would increase after its reopening.

Therefore, local authorities must be strict when checking workers’ vaccination certificates to avoid new outbreaks, Prasat Boontantrapiwat added. Moreover, the head of Old Phuket Community, Don Limnantapisit, suggested officials conduct mass tests in schools as parents could be working closely with tourists.

He also said that the authorities must prepare to take decisive action against tourists who break the rules and hold parties or escape Phuket before finishing the mandatory stay period.