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Thailand has finalized its plan to reopen Phuket on July 1, the so-called Phuket Sandbox, which will allow fully vaccinated tourists to visit the island without having to quarantine.

It’s the first time in more than a year that foreign visitors would be able to travel to Thailand’s most-famous resort-destination without being subjected to 14 days of hotel isolation, provided they are inoculated against Covid-19 and aren’t coming from what the government deemed “high-risk” nations.

Tourism-reliant Thailand is gearing up for a nationwide reopening as early as October to revive its economy, and is using Phuket as a pilot project while the rest of the country accelerates inoculations. The vaccination rate for Phuket residents is currently about 60%, compared to only about 5% nationwide; the government’s goal is 70% on the island before the reopening.

There were few visitors to Thailand last year, and a special visa program initiated ahead of the peak season over the Northern Hemisphere winter did little to boost numbers. In the year before the pandemic, international arrivals averaged more than 3 million per month and the tourism industry contributed about a fifth of gross domestic product.

The Phuket Sandbox is expected to get the Cabinet’s rubber stamp on Tuesday, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha planning a visit next week. Prayuth said this week that Thailand “must be ready to live with some risk” and “let people go back to being able to earn a living.”

Key details for the plan:

  • Eligible visitors for the quarantine waiver include those who have been fully vaccinated and are traveling from Thailand’s lists of low- and medium-risk countries, which will be determined by the Health Ministry
  • Foreign tourists can stay on the island for any length of time that their visa permits before departing
  • But they must stay on the island for at least 14 days before traveling to other regions in Thailand
  • The reopening will be canceled or halted if any of the following happens:
    • New infections in Phuket reach 90 cases per week; the island reported 13 cases during June 11-17
    • Infections are found in all three districts and more than six sub-districts on the island
    • More than three clusters of infections have been detected
    • Hospitalization rate reaches 80% of the island’s capacity
    • New variants spread to an uncontrollable level

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