Stefanie was ordered to move from the hotel that she had booked to stay to an alternative local quarantine venue after it was confirmed that a man she was sitting near on the flight from Dubai was infected with COVID-19.
The man tested positive from his initial swab test after arriving on the island. Stefanie had tested negative, and tested negative again during the second mandatory swab test conducted on Day 6/7 of her stay, as required by Phuket Sandbox entry conditions.
Only after Stefanie’s experience became known around the world, watching to see if the Phuket Sandbox scheme proves successful was she contacted by German embassy officials, staff from the Phuket office of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and the Phuket Tourist Association.
By Monday (July 12), while still maintaining a very positive attitude over her experience as the “test subject” for a Sandbox holiday in Phuket gone wrong, Stefanie drafted a list of suggestions that would prove useful for tourism and health authorities to follow.
“I still think the Sandbox is a great way to visit Thailand, even if I was unlucky to sit next to a person tested positive and have to spend the first 14 nights in quarantine. Thailand – especially the local people – needs tourists. And the tourists will see the island in a way that has not been possible for the last 10 or more years!” she said.
“So, I hope that my experiences will help to sort out some teething problems and will finally make the Sandbox more attractive to other travellers; giving them peace of mind in the unlikely event that they get in close contact with someone tested positive,” she added.
Stefanie offered a list of suggestions as “Here is what would have helped me…:”
An official calling me and explaining the next steps
The person should be able to speak English fluently and be trained to also answer difficult questions / handle difficult matters, e.g. tourists who do not have the money for ALQ, tourists who do not speak English, tourists who prefer to go back to their home country etc. I just imagined my Mum in this situation, being older and without speaking English … she would be totally devastated.
A list of ALQ venues
Each SHA+ hotel should have a list of ALQ venues that they can contact, including prices and amenities. Or even better: An up-to-date website with descriptions, pictures, and availabilities.
A handout with detailed information
Each SHA+ hotel should have a handout with all the details about ALQ, like transport, payment, rules, time frame, times for PCR tests, options to e.g. order special food or stuff from 7-Eleven etc. This could also easily be translated to several languages and be given to the tourists.
An insurance that also covers ALQ
For the COE [Certificate of Entry] application, every tourist needs to have a health insurance that covers treatment for COVID-19 up to an amount of 100.000 US Dollars. How about negotiating a special “Sandbox insurance policy” with one of the major companies that covers not only medical expenses but also quarantine costs? I was lucky to be flying with Emirates which includes such an insurance, but not everyone is coming with this airline. Maybe even contact Emirates and/or their insurance company to negotiate something similar for all Sandbox tourists?
Stefanie invited other suggestions: “Did I miss anything? What would you need to choose Phuket as your travel destination?” Suggestions can be offered through Stefanie’s ‘Wheels & Work’ Facebook page (click here).