Thailand: Despite the outbreak of the virus in the country, Phuket reopens to international tourists on Thursday
Thailand is preparing to reopen the island of Phuket to international tourists on Thursday, with the kingdom recording its worst daily count on Wednesday, with 53 people dead since the outbreak of the Kovit-19 epidemic.
High hopes have been placed on what the government calls the “Phuket Sandbox”, which allows fully vaccinated passengers to stay there without being isolated.
The Southeast Asian country, whose borders have been closed since March 2020, wants to gradually reopen to tourism, an important sector that accounts for almost 18% of its GDP. Before the crisis, the country received about 40 million visitors a year.
The kingdom is currently trying to contain a third-wave corona virus, imposing restrictions on the capital Bangkok and its suburbs, which have seen the spread of alpha and delta species.
However, officials said the reopening of Phuket, where only a handful of Govt-19 cases are detected each day, is scheduled for July 1 and will continue in other parts of the country.
About 250 passengers on four flights from Singapore, the Gulf and Israel will land on the tourist island on Thursday, Phuket Govt-19 task force spokesman Tavisin Visanuyodin said.
The long-awaited visit of tourists is considered a relief by local businesses and merchants because for more than a year the famous sandy beaches of Phuket have been almost empty, and more than 80% of the hotels have closed their doors.
To reopen, two-thirds of Phuket’s population has been vaccinated.
In the heart of Phuket’s nightlife, vendors were preparing to resume operations on Wednesday.
“Everyone and all businesses related to tourism are affected,” said 49-year-old Devan Promiang.
“I agree 100% with the Sandbox project (….) We have nothing but tourists”.
Conditions are still set for those who choose Phuket during the holidays. Only travelers from 66 countries, including France, which is considered low or medium risk, are eligible.
They will have to spend 14 days on the island before moving elsewhere in Thailand, during which time they will have to undergo three PCR tests.
Officials have warned that the trial will be halted if the Govt-19 cases exceed 90 per week.