Phuket’s Governor has publicly assured that the Sandbox scheme will continue to operate even though the island has now broken through the ceiling of the maximum of 90 weekly Covid infections on the island.
The limit was set by the (CCSA Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration) which is the government council related to all things COVID in Thailand and usually their recommendations lead directly to public policy from Government House.
The Phuket Sandbox model was always contingent upon Phuket remaining relatively Covid free and under this interpretation the CCSA has set the number of 90 infections per week (don’t ask me why 90).
Late June the government has stated that the Sandbox might be closed or at least paused if the 90-case ceiling has been reached.
Natapanu Nopakun, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Information and Deputy Spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, explained the criteria in English yesterday (June 22) as part of the CCSA’s national COVID-sitaution briefing.
Mr Natapanu noted that Phuket ranked 28th in the country for infections, adding, “So they are doing good progress there.”
He also explained that criteria for the cancellation of the Phuket Sandbox scheme “if anything adverse happens”.
“For example, if there are 90 persons infected per week in Phuket, that would be a criteria for reconsideration of the scheme once it has started, or for any adjustments,” Mr Natapanu said.
“Also if all three districts in Phuket are affected, and in that more than six villages are affected, that would be another criteria,” he added.
“If there are COVID cases and there are no linkages found and no contact tracing is possible, that would be another criteria,” Mr Natapanu continued.
It makes very good sense that there is an emergency brake system for the Sandbox model should things start to go pear shaped on the island depending on the governments contingency plans of how to handle a vast number of foreigners who suddenly get infected locally, although they should all have insurance by now as that’s one of the entry conditions.
However with hospital beds becoming sparse in Thailand this could put the government in an embarrassing situation: Requiring foreigners to buy insurance but possible being unable to guarantee them intensive medical care if needed.
The matter has now become acute again as Phuket has broken through these limits, reaching 114 cases last week alone.
PHUKET: Local health officials reported 23 more local infections across the island yesterday (July 26), bringing the total number of infections on the island since Apr 3 to 958 ‒ and the total number of local infections in the past seven days to 114.
This would mean the criteria for shutting the Sandbox down has already been reached.
In an effort to calm down participants the Phuket Governor has now come out publicly saying the scheme will continue.
Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew has assured that the Phuket Sandbox scheme will continue, despite the rising number of infections on the island. Photo: PR Phuket
The assurance comes as the island yesterday marked 114 local infections in the past seven days ‒ easily exceeding the “90 infections in one week” limit set by the the Centre of COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok late last month as reason enough to start reviewing whether or not the Phuket Sandbox scheme should be halted.
“The Phuket Sandbox scheme is still continuing. The situation right now has not disturbed the opening [of Phuket to receiving fully vaccinated tourists without quarantine],” Governor Narong said during a live broadcast this morning (July 27).
“We think that the measures to be enforced will be able to control the outbreak,” he added, referring to a raft of new COVID prevention measures introduced in a new provincial order issued yesterday.
Phuket Provincial Public Health Office (PPHO) Chief Dr Kusak Kukiattikoon explained to the press last night the criteria set out for revising the Phuket Sandbox scheme as announced by Natapanu Nopakun, Deputy Director-General of the Department of Information and Deputy Spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, on June 22 as part of the CCSA’s national COVID-situation briefing.
While these Governors have substantial power in their province, ultimately the policy and final decision is made in Bangkok with the central Government.
At the moment and for the last months the Generals who hold the power in the country tend to follow the recommendations of the CCSA which in includes the countries most prominent scientists.
Right now Phuket is counting as many as 114 cases per week with no sign of slowing down. The goal post of max 90 infections/week has already been moved just as they conveniently reinterpreted their number game of achieving a 70% vaccination rate on the island before the July 1 starting date of the Sandbox scheme. Suddenly it was enough to have received at least ONE shot of the vaccine, much of it being Sinovac with it’s doubtful record regarding the Delta variant.
Should the situation in Phuket deteriorate further I have no doubt that the government will pull the plug at least temporarily with all implications this decision would bring with it. Travelers should consider this possibility when planning a trip to Phuket and Thailand in general.