It’s official, in a way. After months of debating whether this will really happen, the Center for Economic Situation Administration has officially approved the Phuket Sandbox plan, an important step forward. The announcement, made at the end of the afternoon, appears to answer the often-asked question of whether the sandbox plan would occur one day after the much more intense and deadly third wave of Covid-19 that swept through Thailand. .
Following this huge step forward, the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration is expected to formally approve the Phuket Sandbox proposal on Monday, followed by the Thai cabinet on Tuesday, and then published in the Royal Gazette – the announcement format that makes it all. official in Thailand.
Then, the island will open the Phuket International Airport to foreign travelers, as proposed by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
A few key questions appear to be clarified in the announcement. This approval appears to indicate that transit through Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) WILL be allowed on the way to Phuket. This opens up more options for flights to Thailand. In addition, travelers arriving in Phuket will need to stay at least 2 weeks before traveling to other parts of Thailand, doubling the 7 days originally planned.
Tourists will not be allowed to go on excursions like day trips to Koh Phi Phi or Phang Nga Bay. In fact, the only option to leave the island within these 14 days is to leave the Phuket airport.
The official rules for the reopening of Phuket Sandbox state that international travelers must be vaccinated for at least 2 weeks before entering Thailand. But the vaccination also can not be more than a year old. Passengers must be from a low to medium risk country. If all of these conditions are met, travelers will be allowed to enter Phuket without any quarantine or self-isolation.
During your 14 days, you can travel anywhere on the island of Phuket, the largest island in Thailand (about the same size as Singapore).
A big question mark throughout the evolution of the Phuket Sandbox program is how children will be treated. The CESA has now established guidelines, stating that children under the age of 6 and traveling with parents who have already been vaccinated will be allowed unrestricted entry. For people aged 6 to 18, a rapid Covid-19 antigen test will be administered upon arrival at Phuket International Airport.
Another point of debate was exactly what vaccines would be accepted to enter Thailand. This CESA announcement concluded that the vaccine brand must either be approved by the Thai FDA (currently Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Sinopharm) or certified by the World Health Organization.
As the initiative aims to bring back tourism, even expats or Thais residing in Phuket will need to book a hotel that meets Covid-19 safety standards before traveling to other parts of Thailand. Unlike ASQ, which remains an option for unvaccinated travelers, you only need to book a hotel, but you can stay at other SHA registered hotels during your stay on the island.
The CESA meeting also included an approved proposal to attract high net worth investors, retirees and travelers, highly skilled professionals and digital nomads. Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Supattanapong Panmechao has been tasked with discussing the details of this program with all agencies involved and submitting findings in the future.
Phuket has passed the first major hurdle to approval and with the momentum it looks like the floodgates for tourism will reopen, for better or for worse. Time will tell if it opens a flow of economy-boosting tourists to the sandbox, or opens a fourth wave of Covid-19 Pandora (sand) box.
SOURCE: National Bureau of Information of Thailand | FRB
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