The first group of 58* travellers successfully completed the first Villa Quarantine pilot project on Monday (Mar 8) and are now free to embark on a one-month tour of the country, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) announced through a release today (Mar 10), issued following a press conference at the Sri Panwa resort this morning led by Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn and TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn.
“The Villa Quarantine project at Sri Panwa Phuket was endorsed by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), and paves the way for the launch of a larger area quarantine initiative that is tentatively scheduled to start in April-May 2021,” the TAT release said.
Tourism Minister Mr Phiphat at the press conference today said, “We are delighted by the success of the Villa Quarantine pilot project that now allows tourists to travel and experience Thailand. It shows confidence in Thailand’s public health system that protects the safety of both international tourists and local people alike, allowing the Ministry to now push through the area quarantine for final approval.”
The Ministry of Tourism and Sports has proposed the launch of the area quarantine in five pilot provinces favoured by international travellers – Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani (home to Koh Samui, Koh Pha-ngan and Koh Tao), Chiang Mai and Chon Buri (home to Pattaya) – where tourists could potentially spend between one to three months, the TAT explained.
“The Ministry has also urged the Royal Thai Government to begin inoculating tourism personnel in Phuket, Chon Buri (Pattaya), Surat Thani, and Chiang Mai with 50,000 doses of the vaccine allocated for hotel staff first,” said the release.
“It has also sought cooperation from the Ministry of Public Health to allocate an additional five million doses of the vaccine that would be available in the third quarter for 2.5 million general public in Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani, Chiang Mai, and Chon Buri. This is in preparation for the start of ‘vaccine passport’ tourism for inoculated travellers originating from low-risk countries,” it added.
Also present at the press conference today was Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew, who said, “The success of the Villa Quarantine has shown that Phuket has the ability to safely welcome more visitors to the island. Currently, Phuket is facilitating international arrivals with several options for the 14-day mandatory quarantine, including the Alternative State Quarantine or ALQ, Organisational Quarantine or OQ options, which include Villa Quarantine, and the Alternative Yacht Quarantine or AYQ.
“In addition, Phuket is providing the Alternative Hospital Quarantine or AHQ for international patients both Thai and non-Thai nationals,” he said.
According to the TAT release today, there are currently 24 ALQ hotels in Phuket and one OQ hotel with a capacity of 2,752 rooms.
“To ensure the high contingency standards of Thailand’s quarantine system, these hotels are working together with eight local hospitals – Bangkok Hospital Phuket, Bangkok Hospital Siriroj, Mission Hospital Phuket, Vachira Hospital Phuket, Patong Hospital, Thalang Hospital, Chalong Hospital and Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation Hospital [Phuket Provincial Hospital]. Meanwhile, the AHQ is available at Bangkok Hospital Phuket and Bangkok Hospital Siriroj,” the release noted.
TAT Governor Mr Yuthasak said, “The success of the Villa Quarantine provides a working blueprint for area quarantine tourism operators who are ready to follow and enforce a strict set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). It will create both direct and indirect income in each province and start the rehabilitation of Thai tourism.”
The Villa Quarantine pilot project is part of the Thai government’s “Organizational Quarantine (OQ)” category, which the TAT received permission to work with Sri Panwa Phuket under a strict SOP, the TAT release noted.
Guests were not allowed out of their rooms for the first five days until the second negative COVID-19 test result. After which they were free to participate in five activities, including access to the restaurant and dining outlets for lunch and dinner, tennis, the fitness centre, the beach, and walking within designated zones, while maintaining social distancing and always wearing a mask, it added.
The hotel was divided into a quarantine area ‘bubble’ (red zone) and non-quarantine area (green zone), with a total of 150 people in the bubble comprising 58* guests and 92 hotel staff (including the COVID-19 manager and team) plus members from the Observation Team for Disease Prevention (OTPD) appointed by Phuket’s disease control committee.
Additional support came from local Phuket officials who monitored the situation from outside the bubble via CCTV, offering daily evaluations via Zoom to the COVID-19 manager and OTPD members.
The successful completion of the first Villa Quarantine pilot project in Phuket comes in addition to 252 travellers who have completed their ALQ stays. A further 99 arrivals on yachts have already completed their “AYQ” mandatory quarantine on board their vessels, while another 19 are currently completing their AYQ, the TAT noted.