BANGKOK 15 March 2021: The first group of 58 travellers successfully completed the first Villa Quarantine pilot project last week and are now free to embark on a one-month tour of the country, the Tourism Authority of Thailand announced at the weekend.

The Villa Quarantine project unfolded at the Sri Panwa Phuket, endorsed by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). It now paves the way for the launch of a larger area quarantine initiative that is tentatively scheduled from April to May 2021.

Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said: “The Villa Quarantine pilot project successfully allowed tourists to travel and experience Thailand. It shows confidence in Thailand’s public health system… and allows the Ministry to now push through the ‘area quarantine’ for final approval.”

The proposed ‘area quarantine’ covers five provinces favoured by international travellers – Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani (Samui, Ko Phangan and Tao island), Chiang Mai and Chon Buri (Pattaya). Tourists could potentially spend between one to three months at the stated destinations.

The Ministry has recommended that the vaccination programme include tourism personnel in the five provinces with 50,000 doses of the vaccine allocated for hotel staff. It has also sought cooperation from the Ministry of Public Health to allocate an additional 5 million doses that would be available in the third quarter for 2.5 million residents in Phuket, Krabi, Surat Thani,  Chiang Mai, and Chon Buri. This is in preparation for the start of ‘vaccine passport’ tourism for inoculated travellers originating from low-risk countries.

Phuket governor Narong Wunsiew said: “The success of the Villa Quarantine has shown that Phuket has the ability to safely welcome more visitors to the island. Currently, Phuket is facilitating international arrivals with several options for the 14-day mandatory quarantine, including the Alternative State Quarantine or ALQ, Organizational Quarantine or OQ options, which include Villa Quarantine and the Alternative Yacht Quarantine or AYQ. In addition, Phuket is providing the Alternative Hospital Quarantine or AHQ for international patients, both Thai and non-Thai nationals.”

Currently, there are 24 ALQ hotels in Phuket and one OQ hotel with a capacity of  2,752 rooms. To ensure the high contingency standards of Thailand’s quarantine system, these hotels are working together with eight local hospitals – Bangkok Hospital Phuket, Bangkok Hospital Siriroj, Mission Hospital Phuket, Wachira Hospital Phuket, Patong Hospital, Thalang Hospital, Chalong Hospital, and Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation Hospital. Meanwhile, the AHQ is available at Bangkok Hospital Phuket and Bangkok Hospital Siriroj.

TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said: “The success of the Villa Quarantine provides a working blueprint for area quarantine tourism operators who are ready to follow and enforce a strict set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). It will create both direct and indirect income in each province and start the rehabilitation of Thai tourism.”

The Villa Quarantine pilot project is part of the Thai government’s Organisational Quarantine (OQ) category that authorised TAT to trial with Sri Panwa Phuket. Guests were not allowed out of their rooms for the first five days until the second negative COVID-19 test result. After which, they were free to participate in five activities, including access to the restaurant and dining outlets for lunch and dinner, tennis, the fitness centre, beach, and walking within designated zones while maintaining social distancing and always wearing a mask.

The hotel was divided into a quarantine area ‘bubble’ (red zone) and a non-quarantine area (green zone), with a total of 150 people in the bubble comprising 58 guests and 92 hotel staff (including the Covid-19 manager and team) plus members from the Observation Team for Disease Prevention (OTPD) appointed by Phuket’s disease control committee. Additional support came from local Phuket officials who monitored the situation from outside the bubble via CCTV, offering daily evaluations via Zoom to the Covid-19 manager and OTPD members.

Phuket is preparing 68,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to begin a mass vaccination programme in three phases from up until May for 34,000 people comprising medical personnel, high-risk groups, tourism personnel, and residents.

(Source: TAT)