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Phuket officials present autopsy on Sandbox tourism success

PHUKET: From July 1, 2021 through April 30, 2022, there were 503,468 tourists who came to Phuket under the Phuket Sandbox entry scheme, generating more than B28.191 billion in direct spending, resulting in more than B66.81bn injected in circulation into local economy.

The figures were reported to Deputy Supattanapong Punmeechaow, who also serves as the Minister of Energy, through an online meeting held at Phuket Sandbox Operation Center at the Phuket Provincial Police headquarters in Phuket Town yesterday (May 23).

Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew was present in person at the meeting, but Phuket Vice Governor Pichet Panapong chaired the meeting and reported the figures to DPM Supattanapong, who was present through an online connection to Bangkok.

The meeting was held to conduct a full review of the success of the Phuket Sandox model for opening the country to receive tourists during the height of the COVID-19 outbreaks over the past year.

During the 304 days, foreign tourists coming to Phuket stayed on average eight nights per person. They paid on average B55,000 per person per trip, generating direct income of over B28.19152bn. The spending resulted in more than B66.8169bn in total spending in the local economy, V/Gov Pichet said.

V/Gov Pichet proceeded to explain all the measures rolled out under the Sandbox entry scheme, with tourists from low-risk countries only allowed to enter and even then sealed routes were enforced in the initial stages.

Tourists were comprehensively screened on arrival and were required to comply with a host of documentary requirements, V/Gov Pichet added.

COVID-Free Setting measures were deployed and enforced to ensure the operators who were allowed to open did so safely, including tour operators, he added.

V/Gov Pichet explained the staff vaccination requirements and the DMHTTA measures enforced as the provincial government began to ease the restrictions.

Venues and specified businesses were allowed to re-open only when if it were safe to do so, V/Gov Pichet explained.

The provincial government was prepared to suspend the Sandbox scheme if a major outbreak occurred, he added.

Clusters of infections identified were contained, he said, adding that all domestic visitors were also initially required to be screened before being allowed onto the island.

The mass-vaccination campaign had proceeded well, with no less than 70% of the island’s inhabitants being vaccinated for COVID-19, V/Gov Pichet said.

Efforts were continuing to focus on young people and to have as many Group 608 at-risk people fully vaccinated as well, he said.

The island was coping well, with 95% of newly infected people being designated ‘Green’ patients, meaning they experienced only slight symptoms, or no symptoms of infection at all, he said.

Further, the falling number of new infections had resulted in the closing of the Aunjai Clinic, established to provide assistance to people who tested positive for the virus through home testing.

Measures were deployed to provide assistance with household debt problems and to support SME businesses, and policies were enacted to help support the island’s tourism industry, V/Gov Pichet said.

A report of the meeting released by the Phuket office of the Public Relations Department (PR Phuket) gave no explanation as to why DPM Supattanapong required such a comprehensive briefing on all the measures undertaken by Phuket officials during the Phuket Sandbox era when all such information was already publicly well documented.

Nonetheless, the PR Phuket report noted that DPM Supattanapong praised Phuket officials for their efforts, and praised the people of Phuket for how they have conducted themselves throughout the crisis.

DPM Supattanapong also called on Phuket to lead by example in having its residents receive a fourth injection of COVID-19 vaccine in order to build immunity for the group against COVID-19 infections, the report said.

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