The revised conditions came in Phuket Provincial Order No. 4781/2564 issued yesterday (Aug 20), which was introduced with immediate effect.
The order was announced during a major meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall in Phuket Town, to which the presidents and mayors of all major municipalities across the island were called to attend.
The order, posted online by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department (PR Phuket) late yesterday afternoon, was labelled as introducing the requirements of entry to Phuket for tourists arriving under the ‘Sandbox 7+7’ scheme, which allows fully vaccinated tourists to travel to other ‘Sandbox’ areas, including Khao Lak, Phi Phi Island and Samui, after spending only seven nights on Phuket, instead of the previously required 14 nights.
The requirements brought into effect for Sandbox 7+7 tourists were no different than already announced by national tourism figures and agencies, including the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT).
The Centre for COVID Situation Administration (CCSA) approved the Sandbox 7+7 conditions on Monday (Aug 16). TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said that from Aug 16 tourists can join the programme, but must apply for a Certificate of Entry (COE) for each route before departing for Thailand.
According to the 7+7 Phuket extension plan, the areas to included are Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao in Surat Thani; Khao Lak, Kho Yao Yai and Koh Yao Noi in Phang Nga; Koh Phi Phi, Railay Beach and Koh Ngai in Krabi.
Mr Yuthasak said the CCSA on Monday also approved every Sandbox area to receive tourists who have been vaccinated with the Sputnik V vaccine, which could help clear an obstacle for Russian tourists
TAT Phuket director Nanthasiri Ronnasiri on Wednesday assured that all tourists entering Phuket under the ‘Sandbox 7+7’ scheme will be tested twice before being allowed to leave the island.
The move to extend Sandbox project areas has already received much support from the beleaguered tourism industry, along with the move to approve Sputnik-vaccinated tourists.
Under the new order, as with any Sandbox arrivals, the sandbox 7+7 tourists must come from countries specified by the ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and must stay in the country they are arriving from for at least 21 days before travelling to Phuket.
They must be fully vaccinated by a vaccine recognised by the MoPH and they must test negative for COVID-19 by RT-PCR test no more than 72 hours before boarding the aircraft to come here. Antigen tests were not listed as acceptable for proving the traveller is not infected.
Sandbox arrivals must have healthcare and medical treatment insurance of not less than US$100,000 and must prepay their booked stay at a SHA+ accommodation venue on the island. Any travellers staying less than 14 days must present their return ticket for exiting the country.
Sandbox tourists looking to travel any of the 7+7 areas must present to provincial border officers evidence proving they have been tested at least twice and have successfully completed their required stay on the island.
Of note, under the new order as an increased safety measure following the murder of Swiss Sandbox tourist Nicole Sauvain-Weisskopf, all Sandbox tourists must now report to the SHA Managaer at the accommodation venue where they are staying each day on returning to the hotel.
The order also listed the conditions for boat operators providing transport for Sandbox tourists to areas outside Phuket, and listed the conditions for boat operators providing boat tours to nearby islands.
However, buried in the six-page order was Article 3, “The Phuket Provincial Public Health Office response plan and a plan to delay or cancel the project.”
No longer are the criteria set out in announcing the “response” plan” and consideration for introducing stricter measures or even suspending the Phuket Sandbox scheme the same as those originally announced.
The 90 infections in one week requirement has been removed, the issue of infections in three districts and infections in at least six subdistricts have also been removed.
Also removed is the 80% hospital bed occupancy limit.
Instead, the new criteria for deciding whether to “consider adjusting measures” for the Phuket Sandbox scheme to continue under the order issued yesterday are listed as three points:
- Readiness to accommodate new infected Sandbox tourists, to be estimated from the total bed occupancy rate of hospitals that accept tourists.
- Readiness to support new infected local people, to be estimated from the rate of bed occupancy per total number of beds in hospitals receiving all types of infections.
- Characteristics of the epidemiology of COVID-19 in the area, the level of the situation and the resources for disease control investigations.
While rewriting the criteria for considering what measures are to be taken regarding a COVID outbreak, the response measures remain the same:
- Reduce activities for tourists, such as limiting places to visit. Reduce activities that come into contact with service providers, for example by starting to reduce activities when one of the criteria is met.
- Sealed Route by organising a travel system to have a specific group of vehicles and set travel routes without having to have close contact with people in the area, by starting to have tourists follow a Sealed Route when traveling. The Sealed Route measure is to come into effect when two or more criteria are met.
- Hotel Bubble by allowing tourists to stay in hotels only, and able to do activities and not in close contact with service providers or people in the area. This is to be done by starting to have tourists remain in a Hotel Bubble when two or more criteria are met.
- Stop accepting new tourists when the outbreak is widespread and uncontrollable, by accepting only tourists who are already registered in the [Sandbox] project and who have received a COE [Certificate of Entry], and have tourists who already entered the country [Phuket] by allowing them to stay in their hotel only until the 14 day quarantine period has been completed.
Under the order the Phuket Communicable Disease Committee is to review the COVID-infection situation on the island on a daily basis and assess the situation according to the guidelines every one to two weeks.
The Phuket Communicable Disease Committee is to take action by “adjusting the measures for tourists” according to two scenarios.
First, if the COVID situation meets any of the three criteria, response measure No 1 listed above (“Reduce activities”) is to be implemented for at least two weeks and then re-evaluated.
If the situation does not change, the “reduced activities” measure is to be maintained and if the situation improves the stricter measures may be eased ‒ but if the situation becomes worse, even stricter measures are to be implemented.
However, if the COVID situation in Phuket meets two of the criteria, the committee is to observe the situation for at least two weeks and then re-evaluate what measures have been implemented. There are now no prescribed measures of action for any level of infection across the island. The committee is to decide which action is appropriate as the situation unfolds.
The order also included the standard warning that violations of the order was punishable under the Communicable Disease Act B.E. 2558 (2015) and under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration B.E. 2548 (No. 26), now the version issued on June 29, 2021, which incurs penalties under Section 18 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations 2005.
A special warning was included for Sandbox tourists who breach the conditions of stay in Phuket under the Sandbox scheme.
“Violation of the order under the preventive measures for travelers entering the Kingdom and the rules of action prescribed by the government, such as traveling out of Phuket before a period of 7 nights or as prescribed without permission. or not cooperating to receive treatment, etc., may be the cause of revocation of permission to stay in the Kingdom under the Immigration Act B.E. 2522, Section 36 and [may result in] consideration of not allowing [the tourist] entry into the Kingdom according to the order of the Minister of Interior No. 1/2015 dated 27 November 2015 regarding the prohibition of certain classes of aliens from entering the Kingdom,” the order noted.
Thai nationals were warned of possible charges under the Communicable Disease Act B.E. 2558 (2015) under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree.
Tour operators, tour leaders and guides, including vehicle owners, vehicle operator and boat crews carrying a foreigner on board were also warned of the same charges and that they stood to have their operating permits and licenses revoked under Section 46 of the Tourism Business and Guide Act B.E.
As the situation is deemed to be a national emergency and the regulations are being brought into effect under an emergency decree, people have no right to contest the regulations under Section 30 of the Administrative Procedure Act, B.E. 2539, the order also noted.