Phuket reopens to tourists one year after borders closed

Despite the increasing number of Covid-19 infections and deaths since the third wave hit Thailand in April, the holiday hotspot reopened for tourists on Thursday.

Phuket will attempt a model called “Phuket sandbox” that allows fully vaccinated tourists to visit without quarantine. Image by Michelle Raponi from Pixabay

CAPE TOWN, July 1 (ANA) – Despite the increasing number of Covid-19 infections and deaths since the third wave hit Thailand in April, the holiday hotspot Phuket reopened for tourists on Thursday July 1.

According to Singapore-based broadcaster Channel NewsAsia (CNA), Phuket will attempt a model called “Phuket sandbox” that allows fully vaccinated tourists to visit without quarantine.

Prior to the global pandemic, Phuket welcomed around 3.3 million visitors each month, but this has dropped, pushing the island to its worst point since the Asian financial crises of the 1990s. It has lost an estimated US$50 billion due to border closures more than a year ago.

While borders are now open, visitors will have some hurdles to overcome before entry and will need to have the necessary paperwork including an entry permit, a negative Covid-19 test not more than 72 hours old, and they must install a tracking app on their mobile devices in addition to undergoing three Covid-19 tests, with the first one done on arrival.

“The regulations might be a lot now, the tourists might feel slightly inconvenienced,” the general manager of Phuket International Airport Thaneee Cuangchoo said.

“But if the measures prevent an outbreak or other concerns, some hurdles may be lifted to make it more comfortable for the tourists … And if they feel more comfortable, then more of them want to come.”

Despite the requirements, local tour officials have reported a high demand, with nine international airlines having already scheduled 34 flights in July which could potentially bring more than 10,000 tourists from low or medium risk countries.

According to The Straits Times publication, tourism makes up almost a fifth of the Thai economy. It said 249 passengers were expected on Thursday on flights from Qatar, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

– African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Stella Mapenzauswa

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