Tourists are being invited to Thailand under a mandatory 14 day covid quarantine scheme, but with innovative idea that the whole of the island of Phuket will be declared as the quarantine zone.
Visitors to Phuket under the Phuket Sandbox scheme will
be required to wear a wristband that will track their location at all times. Presumably the system is designed to alert the police of any attempt for the tourists to escape the confinement zone.
Note the term 'sandbox' is a computing term meaning
an offline experimentation area where new designs can be tested before going live in the real world system.
The news regarding wristbands was confirmed as officials in Phuket this week began preparing the security protocols that will be put in
place for all foreigners arriving on the island from July 1. Thai news site Manager reported on some of the security protocols that will be put in place, which include security checkpoints on the main road leading to the island screening everyone
arriving or trying to leave.
The checkpoints will feature facial recognition cameras that will be able to detect any tourist who tries to leave Phuket before the 14 day mandatory quarantine period.
The conditions of entry into Thailand are extremely onerous and require that
visitors are doubly vaccinated, pay for a series of 4 PCR covid, tests, book in with state approved quarantine hotels, buy covid health insurance, and apply to the local embassy for permission to travel to Thailand. And of course to take the risk of
having their holiday totally written off in detention should they fail a covid test.
And by the way, all bars, discos, and gogos etc are currently closed due to a coronavirus lockdown.
Officials ludicrously said they expect approximately
129,000 foreigners to visit Phuket under the Sandbox scheme. The scheme is unlikely attract any tourists as at all, but may appeal to visitors who have business or family in Thailand who may prefer to spend their 2 weeks quarantine on the beach rather
than locked up in a hotel room.
Update: Prisoner tracking centre opens
26th June 2021. See article from
forum.thaivisa.com A visitor tracking centre for the Phuket Sandbox has been set up on the resort island, with 70% of its equipment installation complete. Phuket will be the first province to 'welcome' fully vaccinated foreign visitors, with the
whole resort island being defined as a quarantine zone, from July 1st.
The centre will be used, along with the Mor Prom and Mor Chana apps, to track the movements of foreign tourists on Phuket. Tourists will be required to install one of the apps upon
arrival. If an infection is found, the information will be sent to health investigators so tourists can be incarcerated in state quarantine facilities, euphemistically called 'field hospitals'.
On the positive side there is no mention of the
prison bracelet being part of the tracking arsenal.
Update: Prison rules
28th June 2021.
The Phuket snadbox scheme has now officially passed into Thai law as noted by its publication in the Royal Gazette.
However this latest round of bureaucracy has inevitably added a few restrictions
Firstly visitors have to book the required 3 PCR tests on Phuket at 2800 Baht each prior to travel and present the receipt to the Thai embassy when applying for a certificate of entry. You will need a 4th test should you want to move
on to the rest of Thailand after your 14 days of Phuket quarantine, and get paperwork to show the Phuket border guards.
Richard Barrow reports on conditions contained in the official description of the scheme:
Tourists must have an active tracking system on them at all times. They must go straight to hotel in a specially arranged car. Cannot leave hotel until first test results. Must report to handler at hotel every day. Cannot stay overnight elsewhere.
Update: So how did it go?
5th July 2021. See
article from thethaiger.com In the first 4 days of the scheme, the island has welcomed 1,896 international arrivals, most of whom are foreign nationals. Below is the breakdown:
- Day 1: 479 (303 foreign nationals, 176 Thais)
- Day 2: 544 (467 foreign nationals, 77 Thais)
- Day 3: 389 (319 foreign nationals, 70 Thais)
- Day 4: 481 (327 foreign nationals, 154 Thais)
- Day 5: 141
- Day 6: 217
- Day 7: 286
- Day 8: 125
- Day 9: 762
- Day 10: 630 (total 3917, average 392 per day)
- Day 11: 651
- Day 12: 210
- Day 13: 396
- Day 14: 299
- Day 15: 237
- Day 17: 881
- Day 18: 915
- Day 19: 242
- Day 20: 362 (total 8981, average 449 per day)
- Day 21: 377
- Day 22: 172
- Day 23: 679
- Day 24: 640
- Day 25: 736
Meanwhile the similar, but even more restrictive Ko Samui Plus, scheme has attracted just 20 visitors in its first week.
Update: Prison breaks
6th July 2021. See article from aseannow.com Two
visitors Phuket onn the sandbox scheme have been returned to custody after attempting to escape.
One visitor who had not turned on tracking on his app was found not to have checked in at his hotel. Instead he went straight to find his wife and child
at his house in Rawai.
He was soon brought back into the system and returned to his cell.
Another man, aged 83, was staying at a hotel in Thalang and went out without his phone or passport, just with his wallet. He was discovered at 4.30 am
wandering near a department store in Wichit sub-district. Wichit police gave him food and drink before retuning him to his cell. Governor Narong Wunden gave details at City Hall yesterday. The man in charge of the tracking from a firm called SIPA,
Pracha Atsawatheera said the tourist who had gone to see his wife at his home had not turned on location finding on the app ever since he was in the airport. He stupidly turned it on when he got home to Rawai.
Update: On the positive side
8th July 2021. See article from flyingdogtravel.com The Tourism Authority of Thailand
(TAT) has published an updated list of countries where travel is allowed from for entry into the Phuket Sandbox.
France and the UK remain on the list despite indications last weekend from the Thai Ministry of Health that they would be added to the
Update: Group punishment
10th July 2021. See article from thephuketnews.com Twelve tourists are now stuck in their cells in alternative local quarantine (ALQ) in Phuket after
one person who arrived on the same flight to the island tested positive for COVID-19.
video press interview with quarantined visitor from YouTube
It is not entirely clear as to what level of contact with an infected person qualifies for being forced to stay locked up in a hotel room, but it surely increases
the odds massively of having a holiday totally ruined, even for doubly vaccinated people with negative tests. In this latest example (See Youtube video) the visitor was seated on her flight in the row behind people who went on to test positive.
is also becoming apparent that children are proving to be the weak link in the island quarantine system as they have not been vaccinated and so pose quite a risk to the holidays of people they come in contact with.
Offsite Comment: The Sandbox Guarantee: taking the what ifs out of travelling to Thailand
10th July 2021. See
article from thethaiger.com The 'Sandbox Guarantee', or a similar style of guarantee for
incoming passengers, is an important step if the Thai government is honest about restarting the country's vital tourism economy.
Update: Think of the Children
12th July 2021. See article from ttrweekly.com Popular Thailand blogger, Richard
Barrow, tweeted an alert at the start of the Phuket Sandbox warning families of the potential risk when booking a Phuket holiday under the sandbox rules.
The small print was a mite too small for most of us to read or
grasp, but a week after the first international flight arrived, 1 July, the risks made prominent headlines. Two young children (eight and nine) failed their second round of testing. Health workers whisked them off to the designated Covid-19 hospital for
Their parents headed in a different direction, leaving their comfortable hotel of choice for a mandatory 14-day quarantine in an Alternative Local Quarantine hotel. It's the unthinkable outcome, the worst-case scenario,
and it should make families think twice about travelling to the Phuket Sandbox or any other destination under strict Covid-19 measures.
Update: Prison visitors banned
28th July 2021. See
article from bangkokpost.com
If you are thinking of saying meeting your Thai partner for a couple of
weeks holiday in Phuket, them maybe you'd like to think again. The Phuket governor has ordered the entire island sealed off, with travellers from other provinces not allowed to enter Phuket starting from Aug 3.
A provincial order, signed by
Governor Narong Woonciew, outlined the stiffer travel restrictions in Phuket. People from outside the province are prohibited from travelling to Phuket with the exception of those transporting essential goods, students, and emergency medical services.
Those exempt are still required to be fully vaccinated and have proof to show at the entry checkpoint.
Meanwhile, Department of Disease Control (DDC) director-general Kajornsak Kaewjaras said the department will monitor the Covid-19 situation in
Phuket for another two weeks to decide whether to keep the Phuket Sandbox scheme.