Phang Nga (including Khao Lak), Krabi (including Ao Nang and Phi Phi islands) and Surat Thani (Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Phangan only) have all today been added to the Phuket Sandbox in Thailand, welcoming tourists despite increasing cased of Covid-19 in the country fuelled by the Omicron variant.
Fully vaccinated tourists can now travel to any of the Sandbox destinations provided that they stay in the destination for at least the first seven days in SHA++ accommodation.
Travellers to Phuket, Phang Nga and Krabi must all travel direct to Phuket International Airport, transit through Bangkok is not allowed. Travellers to Koh Samui can transit through Bangkok provided they meet certain booking conditions.
The Test & GO programme, which allowed quarantine-free travel to fully vaccinated travellers from more than 60 countries, was suspended to new applications just before Christmas as the threat of Omicron became apparant.
Although the increase in Sandbox destinations may help to attract some visitors, there is dismay among many in the tourism industry that the numbers will be very low and changes to entry conditions may have a longer-term negative affect on traveller confidence.
The opening of the additional Sandbox destinations comes as Phuket, the only previous area to be welcome travellers under the scheme, sees a rapid rise in confirmed Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations.
Currently around 60% of hospital beds in Phuket are occupied as the island sees its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic.
Extra capacity is rapidly being created including more suitable rooms in hotels for isolation purposes.
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