Thailand is still holding on to their dream of opening Phuket on July 1st 2021 to foreign visitors but once again officials have moved the goal post of the visiting conditions within days of the initial details.
Visiting foreigners flying to Phuket have to be fully vaccinated but are now required to stay two full weeks on Phuket and undergo a second PCR test before being allowed to leave the island to other provinces.
Previously it was communicated that a 7 day stay in Phuket is required before being allowed to leave to other parts of the country in addition to a PCR-Test upon arrival.
You can access the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) website here where they seem to publish an update once per day.
Updates included that all hotels under this Sandbox model have to receive a SHA+ certificate from the authorities. Existing SHA hotels (pretty much all that are currently open) are in the process of upgrading their rating to SHA+ in order to
Phuket Province today opened an online registration platform for the Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus Certificate, as the island is preparing to welcome back fully vaccinated visitors without quarantine requirements from 1 July, 2021.
Thailand SHA-certified venues and businesses in Phuket, where at least 70% of staff are inoculated, are encouraged to register for the ‘SHA Plus’ Certificate at the www.ภูเก็ตต้องชนะ.com (Phuket Must Win) online platform.
Amazing Thailand SHA-certified establishments are encouraged to apply for the ‘SHA Plus’ Certificate. This is because one of the proposed conditions under the Phuket Sandbox model is that fully vaccinated foreign visitors are required to stay in a ‘SHA Plus’ accommodation and must show proof of the booking at such establishment when applying for the ‘Certificate of Entry’ or COE. …
This for one means that the procedure of having to apply for a Certificate of Entry (with the existing requirements such as $100,000 insurance cover) through the local Thai Embassy / Consulate is still going on even under the Sandbox model. It can take quite some time to receive this certificate so any short term travel to Thailand is officially out of the question.
But the real problem is the constantly mixed messaging, short notice changes just hours after a decision was published through official channels and now a revised entry/stay policy.
For example there was a big announcement on May 30th that the following day there would be considerable easements in COVID protective measures such as opening pools, parks and spas. After publishing this news, making big headlines in the outlets such as Bangkok Post the order was rescinded within hours in the middle of the night.
The it was said the condition of entering Phuket and later on traveling to other parts of Thailand would be a PCR test upon arrival as well as a seven day stay at an approved accommodation.
Now it has once again been revised to 14 days in Phuket and an additional PCR test before traveling to other parts of the country and being allowed to leave the island. Of course a visitor could always leave Thailand entirely and stay less than 14 days, just flying home again.
Richard Barrow had a chance to ask questions to TAT officials yesterday that he published on Twitter:
I’ve just come out of a meeting with the Governor & deputy governors of the TAT about the #PhuketSandbox plan. The good news is that it will go ahead as it has been approved in principle by the CCSA. The bad news is that the 7 days is now 14 days before you can visit elsewhere. pic.twitter.com/9Eqd2tuyoR
— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) June 4, 2021
The following are my notes after my private meeting with the Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and senior executives on Friday afternoon about the #PhuketReopening to vaccinated tourists on 1st July 2021. Feel free to ask any questions #Thailand #PhuketSandbox pic.twitter.com/DPFVGynbdO
— Richard Barrow (@RichardBarrow) June 5, 2021
You can check his Q&A out on his posts, it’s quite detailed and I don’t want to cross post his personal work here without permission.
I would like to quote four pieces of his Q&A that are of most relevance to people seeking to visit Phuket:
Q. Can you transit in Bangkok?
A. Yes, they have just received approval for this and the final details will be worked out soon. Basically there will be a dedicated terminal at Suvarnabhumi and a dedicated flight to Phuket.
Q. What is the situation with domestic tourists going to Phuket during July? Particularly if they haven’t been vaccinated yet.
A. Local tourists face similar restrictions. You either need to be fully vaccinated (or one jab of AstraZeneca) or get a rapid test on arrival.
Q. What happens if I test positive for Covid-19?
A. I am afraid that will mean the end of your holiday. It is the procedure for anyone who tests positive to be taken to hospital. If you have no symptoms you may be taken to a field hospital instead. It is important that you have covid insurance to cover the cost of this.
Q. Is it possible that the 14-day stay will be reduced in the future?
A. Yes, if there are no outbreaks in Phuket during July, they will seek permission to reduce the stay to 7-days before you are allowed to travel around Thailand.
The “field hospital” mentioned there is military run and doesn’t even have real beds in some cases, rather using beds made from cartonage.
Is this really an environment one would like to risk ending up at following a positive test for Covid-19?
The answer concerning flights via Bangkok mean that a traveler doesn’t need to have a direct flight to Phuket but could arrive in Bangkok and would then be channeled to an isolated part of the airport where he’d wait for ONE flight per day in order to transit to Phuket. Sounds like a horrible option to me.
Add to this the current Covid-19 situation in Thailand overall, a steady (unreliable) number of 2,500 infections per day that hasn’t really fluctuated for weeks.
This has lead to Thailand being put on the red list of many countries, meaning upon return from there a traveler would be facing further restrictions back home such as quarantine and testing.
Hopefully things will improve at some point but it doesn’t look good for Thailand which has given priority to only it’s own citizens to receive vaccinations (irrespective of work/visa and social security status), is still not importing Pfizer-BioNTech or Johnson&Johnson vaccines (estimated for 2022) and doesn’t allow private hospitals to organize vaccine efforts. It’ll be a long, bumpy road ahead for this country to fix it’s tourism sector, let alone the economy overall.
I’m not sure this PR stunt of a big public countdown was a great idea. If something happens and it has to be scrapped it’ll be a giant embarrassment.
Phuket tourists might still look at the date of July 1st 2021 to return to Thailand if they meet the conditions but I’d remind everyone to not jump too fast and make costly arrangements. All this can change in a heartbeat as we’ve seen in the case of the minimum stay that now abruptly changed from 7 to 14 days.
I do realize this is difficult to organize and close to impossible to please everyone or anyone however there are so many things that make a trip to Phuket a potential disaster that I fail to see the allure for any genuine tourist to undertake such a trip.
There are plenty of tourism destinations worldwide that come without the cost, red tape, inconvenience and risk factors a trip to Thailand has attached to it given the current situation. The officials take the attitude that the whole world is just waiting for Thailand to open the gates but this won’t be the case. Yes there will be certain demand of people who have been hell bound on returning to Thailand for a year based on whatever personal reasons but those aren’t your average tourists in numbers this system would rely upon.