Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and not sure how to celebrate? People at home still coughing and trading frightening new viral variants? Come to Thailand’s Phuket island, officials there say/hope/plead, where, fingers crossed, no quarantine will be necessary after July 1.
Island authorities yesterday said that’s when they will start welcoming vaccinated travelers without 14 days of quarantine, seven days of quarantine, or any quarantine at all. That’s zero days of quarantine, people. It’s also three months earlier than they had hoped to roll out their so-called sandbox model, according to Pichet Panapong, deputy provincial governor, who said the plan has been approved by their COVID-19 task force.
The tradeoff for skipping quarantine, Pichet said, will be installing a specially designed tracking app for a quick reaction to any potential spread of COVID-19 – and staying in the sandbox, an update to the “travel bubble” metaphor that’s also planned for Krabi and Phang Nga provinces. The three provinces combined accounted for over half a trillion baht of 2019’s tourism revenue.
After locking down hard in the wake of an outbreak last year, Phuket has now been free from confirmed COVID-19 cases for nearly three months. Pichet said help for its economy and tourism is “urgently needed.”
“The sooner, the better,” said Yuthasak Supasorn, governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand.
But the plan requires achieving “herd immunity” among the island province’s populace by vaccinating at least 70% of its people. To achieve that, doses of Chinese-made CoronaVac are on the way, with hope that 930,000 doses will get there in time for 450,000 residents to be jabbed and protected by July.
Nationwide, coronavirus cases have fallen to low daily levels following a second-wave of scare that began just before New Year’s. Health officials yesterday reported 69 new cases, raising the total since the outbreak began to 28,346. The official death toll stood at 92.