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Trouble-free start for the Sandbox?


PHUKET, 5 July 2021: Around 300 foreigners arrived in Phuket on international flights on 1 July on the opening day of the island’s Sandbox pilot project and everyone one of them passed the first RT-PCR Covid-19 test with flying colours. It was a good start for the Sandbox.

They had flown in on Etihad, Qatar, El Al and Singapore Airlines. Following the PCR swab tests, they stayed in their hotels, waiting for the results to come through. Having passed their Covid-19 tests, they are fit and free to roam the island during their 14-ay stay, which is what you would expect of double jab tourists. It certainly beats a hotel quarantine in Bangkok. They will undergo another two tests on day 6 or 7 and on day 12 or 13.

The first day’s arrivals were an odd assortment of travel agents (guests on Tourism Authority of Thailand sponsored junkets), travel influencers, bloggers, media representatives and expatriates happy to find an alternative way to enter Thailand without undergoing a 14-day quarantine in Bangkok. Others were families and, of course, leisure travellers bent on getting back on the holiday trail now they are fully vaccinated. All of them had proof of vaccination (two doses, same manufacturer), a travel insurance pack worth USD100,000 stuffed in their wallets alongside negative Covid tests results and Certificates of Entry from Thai embassies. We have to admire them for jumping through an obstacle race of hoops and hurdles to get to Phuket. But in their enthusiasm at getting to the finish line, some forgot the mantra “keep your distance, wear masks, wash hands often, avoid crowded places.”

Photo Credit: Khao Sod News. TAT fam group tours Phuket Old Town.

A leading inbound tour operator, I Asia, handled a group of travel agents from Israel who flew from Tel Aviv on the El Al flight Friday. They were spotted in Phuket Old Town just hours after receiving their PCR negative test results at the weekend.

Khao Sod Newspaper’s English online edition captured the moment as guides steered the 18 “TAT Israel delegates” through the town’s old quarter famed for its Sino-Portuguese architecture from a tin mining era.  

But it was the masks or the lack of them that caught the attention of Facebook fans who took the travel professionals to task.

One social media netizen barked the order, “put your mask on or go back to where you came from – we are wanting you to protect Thais.”

Another commentator berated the group saying: “Tourists come to Thailand, disregarding the rules that allowed their privileged entry into Thailand, and then this is advertised as best practice?”

Another bemoaned their lack of mask etiquette noting five of the 11 photographed either didn’t bother to wear a mask or turned it into a chin warmer. 

Travel firms handling the arrangements for Sandbox visitors or travel agents fam trips need to bring their guests up to speed on the basics — if you are leaving your hotel room to go to the beach or join a tour or browse in a shopping mall — wear a mask. Take it off when you eat or drink, but if you sit in Starbucks browsing the internet checking your mail, chatting with friends, the mask goes back on your face, not your chin. It’s compulsory with a THB20,000 fine if you persist in demasking.

Visitors to Phuket must practice D-M-H-T-T-A

D – Distancing
M – Mask Wearing
H – Hand Washing
T – Temperature checks
T – Testing (RT-PCR or Antigen Rapid Test)
A – App download — Thai Chana and Mor Chana

TAT sponsored ‘projection mapping’ that illuminated heritage buildings.

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