A tourist from the UAE who just arrived with a tour group in Phuket under the Sandbox program has tested Covid-positive locally despite being fully vaccinated and presenting a negative test at departure.
The individual has now been hospitalized for 14 days and the entire tour group moved to a Quarantine (ASQ) hotel for which they have to cover all expenses. Meanwhile some tourists have already escaped the Sandbox system altogether.
This first case – one week after the Phuket opening – serves as a prime example why there is always a risk attached when utilizing these tourism schemes that are in place both on Phuket and certain other areas in the world.
The Bangkok Post reported about it a few hours ago and opinions are already mixed in Thailand.
A man from the United Arab Emirates who arrived in this southern island province in a tour group on Tuesday was found to be infected with Covid-19, governor Narong Woonciew said on Wednesday.
He is the first tourist found with the virus since the province was reopened on July 1 under the Phuket Sandbox scheme, he said.
The provincial health office reported that a sample swab was taken from the tourist on his arrival at Phuket international airport on Tuesday, before he went to his hotel.
Between 10pm-11pm, the test result came out positive.
Health officials immediately informed the manager of the hotel and took the tourist to a hospital for treatment.
Other tourists in the same group had been placed in 14-day quarantine at a hotel provided by the province for observation and Covid-19 testing.
From July 1-7 a total of 2,113 had arrived in Phuket under the Sandbox programme, the governor said. …
While this article mentions that the Quarantine hotel was “provided by the province” other sources such as Richard Barrow, a prominent Thailand blogger reported that the tourists will have to cover the cost of this facility by themselves but will receive a refund from their SHA+ hotel.
So much for their holiday in the Sandbox. Rather than going to the beach they are now all holed up in a dreadful quarantine hotel all because one person of the entire group tested positive. From what I understand Thailand won’t do any follow up tests to see if the initial one was a false positive, once flagged you’re done for.
Remember that the vaccine alone won’t protect you from contracting Covid but rather prevents (to a significant degree) a serious or fatal turn of the illness post infection. You can still get infected and then test positive which puts travelers in a bind when traveling under conditions tourist schemes such as the Sandbox operate under.
I guess that teaches us a few things.
- Traveling to Phuket / Thailand is a risk right now one has to be prepared to take
- A positive test (even a false positive) will have you incarcerated for two weeks
- Group travel is risky because authorities will lump you in with any infected passenger in your group
- A quarantine (ASQ) hotel in Phuket is pretty expensive compared to moderately priced SHA+ hotels
- Insurance with Covid coverage would likely pay if you need to go to a hospital but unlikely if the authorities force you into a hotel transfer, keep you there for two weeks and you need to change your flight and other arrangements
In related news ASEAN NOW (formerly Thai Visa) reported today (translated from a local news source) that another Sandbox arrival escaped the system and instead of the hotel promptly went to the house of his Thai wife and son. He was reported by the hotel who realized he didn’t check in, located and put back into the hotel (should probably be placed into immigration detention and immediately deported for violating the law as well as the emergency decree).
Another tourist, a 84-year old senior with Alzheimer disease, was found to have left the hotel without his cellphone where the tracking software was located on. He went to a local supermarket and was only found out because in his confused state he couldn’t remember where his hotel was.
Related to the photo used for our article today, the Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha went into self-isolation on Monday after coming into close contact with a business leader in Phuket last week who later tested positive for COVID-19. So far the Sandbox seems to be a slamming success.
One tourist tested positive, his tour group detained for two weeks, one fresh arrival “breaking free” and a senior traveler leaving his tracking device (cellphone) behind.
These cases beg the question how secure the Phuket Sandbox really is, how travelers can rely on safety and fair treatment as well as on the other side of the coin how authorities should deal with individuals who don’t follow the rules of the program. The system appears to have many holes that carry the potential to make a lot of people quite miserable. If this continues I can very well see the program being modified into a more strict version or abandoned entirely.