Thai island Koh Samui re-opens with ‘sandbox’ quarantine for tourists


Footage shows travellers returning to Thai island Koh Samui today (July 15) for the first time in 16 months as the country battles to revive its flat-lining tourism industry.

The nine passengers – all of them ex-pats living in Bangkok – flew to the airport in the south of Thailand to mark the start of the ‘Samui Plus’ sandbox scheme, which allows vaccinated tourists who have tested negative for Covid-19 to ‘quarantine’ by roaming the island for 14 days.

Ministers hope the numbers of international visitors arriving there from abroad, along with the island of Phuket which has a similar scheme, will start to increase during the rest of 2021 with other popular regions such as red-light city Pattaya following with their own sealed quarantine system.

It came despite surging numbers of coronavirus cases around the country, which has lead to a curfew in the capital Bangkok and restrictions on travelling out of the city to different provinces.

Thailand has recorded 372,215 Covid-19 cases and 3,032 deaths as of July 15. Ministers hope a vaccine rollout that started last month will allow them to re-open the country to international tourists before the end of the year.

Economists have 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.