Phuket Sandbox Scheme: First International Visitors Arrive

Phuket welcomed the first group of toursits on Thursday when the island reopened for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic forced Thailand’s tourist destinations to close.

On Thursday morning, 23 foreign travelers arrived at Phuket airport under the Sandbox scheme that allows fully vaccinated tourists to visit the island without quarantine.

According to official reports, 347 passengers on four flights from the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Singapore, and Qatar landed in the territory yesterday.

Forty-four passengers arrived on the EY430 flight on the Abu Dhabi-Phuket-Suvarnabhumi route, which landed around 10:20 a.m.

Twenty-three of them disembarked in Phuket, and the rest went to Suvarnabhumi. Upon reaching the island, the plane entered a “water tunnel” that the government prepared in advance to receive the first group of foreign visitors for the first time in a long time.

Tourists later downloaded the Thailand Plus and Mor Chana tracking apps after undergoing fever and vaccination checks.

Travelers also went through immigration procedures and took swab samples for RT-PCR testing. Then, they were taken to their hotels to wait for the test results, set to be delivered in 24 hours.

People who test negative could travel to other parts of the island, while those who test positive will be immediately transferred to hospitals.

The other three flights arrived in Phuket on Thursday from Israel, with 137 passengers at 1:52 p.m., from Qatar, with 136 passengers landing at 12:43 p.m., and from Singapore, with 51 passengers landing at 4:14 p.m.

All travelers from the three flights would stay on the island.

Thailand, with a fifth of its economy dependent on tourism, expects the project to help on the sector’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused its worst economic performance since the Asian financial in 1997.

The free quarantine Sandbox model starts when the country faces its worst Covid-19 wave with the worrying detection of the most contagious Delta and Alpha variants.

Thailand’s case toll is 264,834, but Phuket remains relatively unscathed as authorities launched a mass vaccination campaign ahead of quarantine-free tourist arrivals, inoculating 70% of its residents.

Travelers seem excited about Phuket’s reopening.

Official figures indicate that some 4,100 potential tourists have applied for a Certificate of Entry (COE) through the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s website since it opened in late June to accept visitor applications under the Phuket Sandbox scheme.