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Updated - Prison visitors banned: Phuket Prison Island Holidays...

Thailand has introduced covid quarantine where tourists have the freedom to roam about a holiday island... but they must wear a prison GPS bracelet to alert police should they try to escape


Link Here28th July 2021
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 and hassles.

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 16: 871
  • 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 prohibited list.

 

Update: Group punishment

10th July 2021. See article from thephuketnews.com
See video press interview with quarantined visitor from YouTube

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.

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.

It 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 treatment.

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.

 

 

If you're thinking of returning to Thailand...

Maybe October is too soon as the tourism will reconsider re-opening plans


Link Here25th July 2021
The Tourism Authority of Thailand chief says October reopening plan for ten provinces will need to be reassessed in light of pandemic

Yutthasak Suphasorn has noted that the pandemic is out of control in Thailand and vaccination is still low.

The October 1st reopening plan - part of PM Prayuth Chan-ocha's grand 120 day reopening master plan - applies to Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Prachuap Khirikhan (Hua Hin), Phetchaburi (Cha-Am), Chonburi (Pattaya), Buriram, as well as Phuket, Surat Thani, Krabi and Phangnga where reopening is progressing according to plans already in place.

Yutthasak told Sanook that the pandemic could not be controlled at the present time and he noted the CCSA were reporting 10,000 new cases daily.

New assessments and plans were necessary given the current situation as Thailand would have to be careful regarding safety and risk factors.

 

 

Thailand bans free speech on trains...

Any speech in fact, its a covid restriction


Link Here12th July 2021
Thailand's Department of Rail Transport (DRT) has requested that passengers no longer talk on trains in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As well as wearing face masks and making sure they socially distance, passengers should not talk to one another or on the telephone, the DRT chief Kittiphan Panchan said.

Passengers are also required to use hand sanitizer at the start and end of their journey and check in using the Thai Chana smartphone app.

The new measures concerning rail travel will be in place until at least July 25.

 

 

Dangerous Thailand...

Thai authorities propose a 11,400 fine for internet users who post a picture of an alcoholic drink


Link Here2nd July 2021
Full story: Internet Censorship in Thailand...Thailand implements mass website blocking
Thailand's The Standard news website has reported that it could soon be possible to be fined 500,000 baht (11,400) just for posting a picture of a glass of beer or wine. And 60-80% of that fine could go into the pocket of the police or authority that brought the prosecution.

Up to now private individuals can be fined 50,000 baht (1150) for promoting or advertising alcohol. Now a draft amendment from the authorities is proposing this is increased to half a million baht.

Commercial entities are liable to larger fines, currently at 500,000 baht, but the proposals would see this rise to a full one million baht.

There is also a proposal to stop a kind of loophole that allows big firms to promote their products by referring to soda rather than beer. Eg the beer maker Singha advertises its bottled water brand with a logo that is also used for its beer.

In future just using the soda/water logo could be illegal and subject to the alcohol fines by association.

The new proposals are currently on public consultation until 9th July, although it is a little offputting that ID cards are required from those wishing to comment.


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