Concern is growing in Phuket that the tourism sandbox, launched on 1st July, may be under threat from the increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases on the island.
Main picture flying into Phuket, credit Bao Menglong on Unsplash
The Phuket Sandbox has so far attracted more than 20,000 visitors and is the pilot project for a wider reopening in Thailand. A smaller project started on 15th July in Surat Thani (Samui Plus) and a Phuket Extension is planned for Surat Thani, Krabi and Phangnga.
Phuket had already tightened restrictions for visitors in mid-July with the closure of entertainment venues, including bars, and the banning of non-essential domestic travel from elsewhere in Thailand. Both measures have now been extended until the end of August.
For the first time since the sandbox was launched, Phuket reported 125 new Covid-19 cases in the week ending 27th July which could have triggered the suspension of the programme.
Cases have continued to increase significantly every day since then, with 100 reported on 14th August. The vast majority of new cases have been traced to construction workers, many migrants, and not to Sandbox tourists.
Phuket authorities have now closed shopping malls and schools and banned gatherings of more than 100 people in an attempt to stem the flow of new cases.
Thailand has today reported 21,157 new cases of Covid and 182 deaths and has now seen 928,314 cases and 7,734 deaths since the pandemic began, the majority have been since the latest outbreak, fueled by the Delta variant, at the start of April.
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