Photographed by Cedric Arnold
Mar 26, 2021
THEY’RE CALLING IT OPERATION SANDBOX. On Friday, the Thai government agreed to reopen Phuket to vaccinated international tourists with no quarantine from July 1 — so long as the island can get 70 percent of its own population fully vaccinated by then.
Foreign tourists will need to show proof of vaccination, take a Covid-19 screening test at Phuket International Airport, and activate the tracing application ThailandPlus.
“The reopening plan will depend largely on vaccine allocation,” said Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. At least 466,587 people, who make up 70 percent of Phuket’s population, will need to receive two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, with the first round of jabs beginning on April 15 and the second on May 15. It’s hoped the island will then achieve herd immunity.
The approval of the quarantine-free pilot plan by the Centre for Economic Situation Administration is welcome news to hoteliers and others in the hospitality and tourism industry and trickle-down businesses who have been lobbying to reopen the country this summer. It will serve as a model for Thailand’s other tourism hubs, which might aim for the same type of reopening starting this October.
At least 100,000 vaccinated visitors are estimated to visit Phuket quarantine-free in the third quarter, a far cry from past heights. Thailand’s latest foreign arrivals outlook in 2021 from the country’s central bank is 3 million, compared to 40 million foreign arrivals in 2019.