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Phuket Opinion: Trapped Sandbox tourists need test and release

Phuket Opinion: Trapped Sandbox tourists need test and release

PHUKET: The Phuket Sandbox scheme has a serious problem with the forced quarantine of 13 tourists this week and Thai officials spouting off how much the Sandbox reopening of tourism to Thailand is going to help kickstart the Thai economy are about to find out just how much it is going to cost them.

opinionCOVID-19tourismhealth
By The Phuket News

Sunday 11 July 2021, 10:00AM


Just how much damage the forced quarantine of tourists who test negative for COVID-19 has done to the Phuket Sandbox scheme remains to be seen. Photo: MoTS

Just how much damage the forced quarantine of tourists who test negative for COVID-19 has done to the Phuket Sandbox scheme remains to be seen. Photo: MoTS

The 13 tourists were among the 14 people who arrived on Emirates flight EK378 which landed in Phuket on Tuesday (July 6). On the same flight was one man from the United Arab Emirates who tested positive for COVID-19 after landing at Phuket International Airport.

As is now standard procedure under the Phuket Sandbox model, once the man tested positive for COVID-19, he was taken into care at a local quarantine venue, while all people deemed to be high-risk contacts were taken to ALQ venues.

According to the terms of entering Thailand under the Phuket Sandbox policy, tourists are responsible for all costs related to any COVID measures and must have health insurance of no less than US100,000 to cover any costs related to COVID infection.

What is flying in the face of the policy to shunt Sandbox tourists who have tested negative for the virus into an ALQ costing in excess of B3,700 a night by declaring them as high-risk contacts is that right now there is nothing stopping a person from driving from the “dark red” zone of Bangkok – recognised by Thai officials themselves as the most contagious place in the country – to Phuket and being allowed onto the island.

The Bangkokian only needs to present an RT-PCR test results certificate proving they were not infected sometime up to seven days earlier and they will be allowed into Phuket. Once on the island, they are allowed to go anywhere they like.

As of today, Thai officials have no way to explain why domestic arrivals who have tested negative for the virus sometime in the preceding seven days may roam the island freely while tourists who have tested negative for COVID-19 within the past 24 hours must remain in quarantine for two weeks.

We’re looking forward to any explanation of why this is so.

Worse, right now Thai officials are placing people in quarantine because they tested negative for the virus, and placing people in quaratnine because they tested positive for the virus. 

Thanyapura

The Royal Thai Government has to decide whether it trusts its own tests it forces people to take. Either ruling officials trust RT-PCR tests or they don’t. They have to pick one. The current duality smacks of a government making up rules as it goes along out of nothing more than fear.

To argue that they are waiting for the incubation period is to admit that the test is pointless.

While officials are pondering their next move they can also ponder just how many prospective Sandbox tourists are now figuring out how to delay their planned holiday in Phuket because of this.

As of Thursday, 12 of the 13 Sandbox tourists stuck in quarantine had asked to fly home to the UAE. "All of them agreed to return home as the provincial health authority allowed them to depart since last night. We’re considering rewarding them with special privileges if they plan to revisit Thailand in the future," said Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn told the Bangkok Post yesterday.

Mr Yuthasak said travellers in the sandbox scheme already acknowledge the possibility of a 14-day quarantine if they are determined to be a high-risk group, according to the certificate of entry application process.

Mr Yuthasak also said all travellers choosing to return “should” receive full refunds from hotels, including costs for COVID-19 tests. As head of the agency that invited the world to come to Phuket under the Sandbox scheme. Mr Yuthasak “should” be able to do better than that.

What “should” be applied is a test-and-release policy, whereby any Sandbox tourists who test negative for COVID-19 after arriving in Phuket should be allowed to continue their holiday as planned, just like anyone else in the country.

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sympassion | 08 August 2021 - 12:21:53

Why should one who is not infected but is forced to go into quarantine because of close of am infected person pay 3700 baht per day? What’s the money for? You should pay less, as you get less service, less quality, no use of facilities and no fun.

sympassion | 08 August 2021 - 12:16:58

I am aware that when I am infected I should be quarantined. I was not aware that when somebody else in the plane is infected I should also go in quarantine. If I am infected my Covid insurance pays all costs. If somebody else got infected and I am forced to go into quarantine I have to pay all costs myself. Why? And why 14 days? The max. incubationtime is 7 days?

skip | 18 July 2021 - 00:54:40

a top point brought up re the PCR test which isnt designed for infectious diseases. only a blood serum test can isolate the virus for a conclusive result. the PCR test give a positive from any dead virus cells which also proves immunity and that is why positives are assymptomatic. stop testing healthy people. it is pointless and only creates fear. follow the published science not the tv hysteria.

himori6587 | 15 July 2021 - 08:01:01

treasurefish thank you for being fare to Saudi Arabia. They should add it to the list

Madeinswiss | 11 July 2021 - 20:03:35

Thai government need to pay hotel quarantaine hotels and pay back them all  the costs of their travels.... If they want keep a good image about sandbox

treasurefish | 11 July 2021 - 17:27:14

These people have been wrongly detained and entitled to compensation!

treasurefish | 11 July 2021 - 17:21:48

Travelers from Saudi Arabia are not allowed to participate in the sandbox program, but Saudi 3.5 times the population and half of the active cases of the UAE! In fact, Saudi Arabia has blocked visitors from the UAE for a second time in the past three months because of their climbing cases.  Meanwhile, the UAE is inviting vaccine tourists from China! Swap UAE with Saudi and gain some control!!!

jsrit | 11 July 2021 - 16:50:00

Very good opinion piece and 100% true. The government is shooting itself in the foot with inconsistencies and lax domestic travel regulation vs international (too strict/too many tests)!

Little Tommy Tucker | 11 July 2021 - 16:38:45

Hmmm Captain Jack, the tourists know the risks do they? They no that if anyone else on their flight is shown to be positive they will also have to quarantine. If they knew that no one would come. You think people would take that risk? I understand if I test positive, yes, but if anyone else on the plane, then no. I would suggest people do not read the detail, they are just happy to have the COE.

Christy Sweet | 11 July 2021 - 14:23:21

As long as Thailand has cheap lovely prostitutes to serve up to sexpats, they'll leap through any hoops- and Thailand knows it, so I blame them for the difficulties Immigration feels free to inflict. 

CaptainJack69 | 11 July 2021 - 13:53:41

I still think the sandbox scheme is a good idea. Guests knowingly accept the risk of ending up in quarantine and still travel. I do think they should be reimbursed if that happens. Allowing them to travel home is a problem as we've labelled them 'at risk'. The real problem is the tests. Everyone tests negative before leaving home. That should be enough. But...

johannesweber | 11 July 2021 - 12:27:21

Thailand immgration and the idiot bureaucracy are going make it so no foreigner going want to visit or invest in Phuket any more

johannesweber | 11 July 2021 - 12:25:52

This just gets stupid upon stupid and Thai immigration is no better, they think  whom must be borderline idiots thats  it back to the old normal ,its not , 

megamind | 11 July 2021 - 11:43:33

We’re looking forward to any explanation of why this is so.. Easy anwer: becasue thai people can not spread virus instead farang do and never vote at the elections...

Kurt | 11 July 2021 - 11:31:34

As usual a good and sharp Opinion. The difference in how on Phuket arriving Thai and arriving Foreigners are treated is astonishing. It is plain 100% discriminatory nonsense. Specially seen in the frame work of who are the infecting people. That are 99.9% Thai people. The Sandbox treatment of foreign tourist is anti tourism advertisement. Well done, Phuket!

Fascinated | 11 July 2021 - 10:53:11

The pre-departing  tourists reminds me of the old Clairol advert- they told two friends and they told two friends, and so-on and so-on. The authorities have killed the sandox scheme before it even got properly started.  Just because they twist the media here other countries don't and this will go viral. 
Thanks for Guinea Pig Island.

 

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