The Thai island of Phuket re-opened to tourists today (July 1) as the country battles rising numbers of Covid-19 cases.
Footage shows Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha at the province’s airport opening the project, before later welcoming the first visitors, many of them from the Middle East.
Ministers hope the ‘sandbox’ scheme – with vaccinated holidaymakers spending 14 days roaming the tropical island – will be successful and rolled out to other regions to kickstart the ailing economy.
Visitors must get a ‘certificate of entry’ from a Thai Embassy before boarding their flights, pay for a hotel and pay for three Covid-19 swab tests as well as travel insurance and a test before leaving their home country.
However, anyone who tests positive for the virus will have their holiday cut short and spend 14 days in a military-style field hospital or private hospital. The number of cases in Thailand is also rising, with 5,489 testing positive today bringing the total since early last year to 244,447 with 57 dead.
Despite some optimism over the Phuket sandbox scheme, economists warned that it could be another five years before the country’s tourism industry returns to pre-pandemic levels.
Two years ago tourism made up an estimated 21 per cent of Thailand’s GDP, generating 1.8 trillion baht in revenue. However, the country’s National Economic and Social Development Council predicted that it could be another five years before similar numbers are seen.
Analysts said that between now and 2026, around seven million workers will continue to be affected by the economic harm from the Covid-19 pandemic.