Thai social media was in uproar yesterday after a picture was posted on social media that showed Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his cabinet not wearing masks at the seaside in Phuket. Netizens were furious that it was one rule for them and one for the rest of us. Many said it was highly inappropriate. They were having a snack at a restaurant in the Sirinat National Park just before going to welcome foreign tourists arriving at the nearby international airport from Singapore, reported INN. The PM and his entourage were in the area looking at some turtles. The environment minister arrived earlier to clean up a mountain of trash, ASEAN Now earlier reported. We further note that while non- mask wearing outside is subject to fines in Thailand, people are allowed to eat without wearing one.
Thai Rath printed a great swathe of separate stories and observations on the day that the much heralded Phuket Sandbox opening to foreign tourism happened. It was meant to be a day of smiles. A day when the Thai prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha could revel in the mother of all international photo-ops as he welcomed foreign tourists back. But the reality behind the messages of hope and songs for the future was entirely different. The country suffered its worst number of Covid-19 cases AND deaths in a single day. The pandemic was out of control, by some accounts. A deputy at the public health ministry said Bangkok was in crisis and more doctors were needed to save lives. A north eastern Thailand MP reported they had been hospitalized with a blood clot after vaccination as the PM was slammed for importing sub-standard vaccine. Then just when it looked like it could not get worse for the government, the new Digital Economy and Society minister has had to quarantine after being on a flight with an infected person. Guess where he had flown into – yes, Phuket. Thai Rath – easily the country’s most influential media – juxtaposed the back slapping bonhomie of the politicians against the stark reality on the ground. There was no hiding that Thailand’s day of optimism coincided with their greatest day of crisis. Down on the southern Thai island of Phuket Prayuth arrived all smiles in the morning for a big day that culminated in the late
Sanook declared that Phuket was safe after a local doctor dismissed social media claims that ten people had tested positive for the Delta variant, formerly called the Indian variant. This came on the eve of the much heralded reopening of Phuket to foreign tourists today, July 1st – the Phuket Sandbox. Dr Koosak Kookiatkoon of the Phuket Department of Public Health said that all tests were verified by the Bang Jo testing center in Thalang district. He had received no notification from them that any of the samples had the new variant. Five people who arrived from Bangkok tested positive for Covid-19 with three now in hospitals and two others undergoing more tests. Twenty other contacts of the group were in quarantine. The social media scare was caused after claims that five people on Tuesday and five yesterday had the Delta variant.
Thailand’s tourism minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan told Daily News yesterday that the Phuket Sandbox was ready to start today. The much heralded reopening of Thailand to foreign tourists will see four flights direct flights arrive today – Ethihad from Abu Dhabi will be first to touch down followed by Qatar from Doha, El Al from Tel Aviv and Singapore from the island nation. Pipat said that Thai PM Prayuth Chan-ocha will be at the airport with his entourage to greet arrivals from Singapore at 5.10 pm. In total 300 people are expected aboard the four flights. Pipat said that problems over the issuance of Certificate of Entry certificates had been ironed out and tourists would definitely not be required to quarantine for 14 days. Meanwhile in a related report Thai Rath outlined the drive to vaccinate people on Phuket saying that targets had been exceeded. As of yesterday 82% of the people on the southern Thai island had received a first dose of vaccine or 383,158 people out of a total of 466,587. A total of 64% have received two doses or 298,344 people. Planning to visit Phuket? Book your Sandbox hotel here
Phuket’s governor Narong Wunsew told Manager that everything had been done to ensure the success of the Phuket Sandbox reopening to foreign tourists. But he wouldn’t put a percentage on that confidence. Top of his priority list has been security and health arrangements to prevent Covid-19 getting in through the land route at the Tha Chatchai checkpoint. Narong said that Department of Provincial Administration, police, military , immigration, health service, customs and every worker was committed to the goal of opening Phuket and making a success of the sandbox plan that starts Thursday. He reiterated that a key focus was keeping Covid out – entering by land you will need to have had two doses of vaccine, one of AstraZeneca, recovered from Covid up to 90 days or a negative test within the last 72 hours to get in. He foresaw no problems with this what with the vaccine rollout that has taken place on the island. His message to the media was a clear one: Once we’re open we won’t be closing again. Phuket Sandbox hotels to suit all budgets
The Tourism Authority of Thailand chief Yutthasak Suphasorn told the Thai media that just about everything was ready for the Phuket Sandbox reopening to foreign tourism on Thursday. With just three days to go Yutthasak said yesterday that an announcement was expected in the Government Gazette that will assist foreign embassies in issuing Certificates of Entry making it easier for foreigners to book. He notes that Standard Operating Procedures were all in place. He said that 70% of the population of the southern Thai island had been vaccinated and this would be 80% by Thursday. Marketing executive at the TAT Siripakorn Cheosamut said that four flights would land in Phuket on Thursday – Ethihad at around 10 am, Qatar, 1.30 pm, El Al 1.45 pm and Singapore Airlines at 5 pm. Some 400-500 passengers are expected to be onboard. On Day 2 July 2nd Emirates will fly in. On Days 3 and 4 THAI will fly in from Europe from Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Zurich. Siripakorn claimed also that Singapore Airlines and Qatar will fly into Koh Samui when they start their “sealed route” addition to the Sandbox plan on July 15th. As far as Phuket goes there had been 217 hotel bookings for the first day and 1,101 bookings for the first 15 days. This represented 13,116 rooms as each person will be staying an average of 12 days. Thaivisa notes that in the plan tourists are required to spend 14 days on Phuket before moving on. Planning to visit Phuket?
Officials in Phuket on Friday confirmed that the island is ready to welcome foreign tourists from July 1. Phuket governor Narong Woonciew said that everything was in place for the start of the eagerly anticipated Phuket Sandbox project. Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow, Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa and Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakhomnusorn all accompanied the governor on an inspection of the island. The governor said it was imperative for the local economy that Phuket reopens and spoke of his confidence in the preventative measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus. Also on Friday, Tourism Authority of Thailand chief Yutthasak Suphasorn repeated his assessment that there would be 30,000 less tourists going to Phuket from July to September than previously thought because of the (CCSA) requirement to have to stay on the island for 14 days rather than what he wanted, just seven. But they would still spend 8.9 billion baht, he maintained. Until the end of October 32 airlines would be flying into the island. In July there will be 426 flights to Phuket and some of these are airlines that have never flown to Phuket before. Yutthasak said this was great news. He said that tourists are delaying their travel plans until the last moment and many are waiting for the announcement of Phuket Sandbox regulations in the Government Gazette. He expects this to be Monday next. He also said that a press
Phuket Tourism Association on Friday moved quickly to dispel reports that foreigners staying in Phuket as part of the ‘Sandbox’ project would need to be legally married if they wanted to share a bedroom with a Thai national. Earlier, Thai media had reported that hotels in Phuket under the SHA+ scheme will not allow foreigners who are not legally married to their wives to stay together. You must have “jot thabian” or legally registered your marriage to be allowed in the same room. This could affect many people who have married in villages according to Buddhist traditions but whose marriages are not legally registered, notes Thaivisa. The media went further quoting Bhummikiit Raktaengam, the head of the Phuket tourism business association who was speaking on behalf of the hotels. “If foreigners arrive with a girlfriend, lover, sex partner they will not be permitted to stay together. However, according to a statement, the association’s president, Khun Bhummikiit Ruktaengam, had been misinterpreted during an interview with Thai media. The statement said: “in order to avoid any misunderstandings or confusion with this regard, all parties are requested to await an announcement in the Royal Gazette respectively”. *post updated to include statement from Phuket Tourism Association
Thailand’s tourism minister Pipat Ratchakitprkarn had a stark message from prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha when he visited Phuket ahead of the island’s opening to international tourism next week. Don’t let Phuket’s infamous mafia spoil the party. With this in mind all the pick-ups at the airport will be registered drivers and no taxi mafia will be allowed. Around 300 tourists are expected on the big day next Thursday. Manager reported that deputy governor of Phuket Phichet Panapong outlined the readiness of the island for the start of “Phuket Sandbox” on July 1st at a meeting at the international airport yesterday. International tourists who have received two doses of WHO and Thai authority approved vaccines will have to stay on the island for 14 days before going elsewhere. Their movements will be tracked by compulsory apps. Picture: Manager Pipat said just a few minor matters remained to be sorted but that Phuket was 100% ready and he was “waiting for the first tourist to arrive at the airport”. Then the question was: “How many?” Pipat said that on Thursday he was expecting something around 300. But not to worry, when others see how safe it is they will decide to come and he was expecting increasing numbers in the last three months of the year. He said that the latest Tourism Authority of Thailand assessment was that 100,000 visitors in the next three months will spend 9 billion baht. He said this was down on previous assessments by 30,000 people after it was
Phuket’s governor was guest of honour yesterday at Phuket International Airport where a trial run was conducted for the arrival of foreign tourists next week. The much heralded Phuket Sandbox – upon which the reopening of Thailand rests – takes place on Thursday July 1st. Narong Winsew inspected the walk from the plane, screening and temperature checks, those all important vaccine document checks, the waiting for the transport to hotels. Everyone would be making sure that two vaccine doses had been jabbed into the arms of visitors already. If not – and these would probably be local tourists – they would face an instant test before being chaperoned to their hotel for 24 hour quarantine. They would be personally informed by the health authorities of the results. Picture: Daily News Narong told Daily News that everything would be ready by the end of the month. A “Big Cleaning” day will be held on Friday (tomorrow) to make sure that the island was sanitized. Earlier reports suggested that five direct flights will be landing on Thursday from abroad. Phuket is pulling out all the stops for the Sandbox. It will be followed by the reopening of three islands in Surat Thani mid-July and if all goes to plan other provinces later in the year including Chiang Mai, Krabi, Chonburi (Pattaya) and Bangkok. Phuket Sandbox Hotels Packages – Book Now!
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