Thailand to reopen Phuket on July 1; easing restrictions in Bangkok from Monday (June 14)

People watching an aircraft preparing to land at Phuket International Airport at a near-empty beach in Phuket, Thailand. The govt announced on Sunday (June 13) that it will be allowing popular island resort Phuket welcome vaccinated foreign visitors from low-risk countries on July 1. - Bloomberg

BANGKOK, June 13 (Bernama): Bangkok to ease Covidd-19 restrictions begining Monday and popular island resort Phuket expected to welcome vaccinated foreign visitors from low-risk countries starting July 1.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said the decision was made after careful consideration as the outbreak in Bangkok is ‘under control’ while 70 per cent of Phuket’s local population, especially those in the tourism sector have been vaccinated.

Prayut in his Facebook post said in Bangkok five types of businesses and venues - museums, public parks, beauty clinics, tattoo and nail salons, and massage parlors (only for foot massage) - to reopen as many in these businesses have been vaccinated.

However, he added that these venues could be closed if they fail to comply the regulations.

On May 31, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) announced that museums, learning centres, science parks, art galleries and historic sites, tattoo parlours, nail salons, beauty/ weight loss clinics, botanical and flower garden will open starting June 1.

However, Prayut put the brakes on BMA’s decision in less than 24 hours saying he need to evaluate the situation in another two weeks.

On Phuket, Prayut said under the "Phuket Sandbox” plan vaccinated foreign tourists will be allowed without the need to undergo 14-day compulsory quarantine, but they must stay in the island for 14 days before travelling to other provinces in the kingdom.

The Phuket Sandbox will serve as a model for other tourist provinces including Chiang Mai, Chon Buri (Pattaya), Krabi and Phang Nga and Surat Thani (Koh Samui) expected to open in October.

However, the plan requires approval from Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) which is scheduled to meet on June 18 and cabinet approval on June 22.

Even before Phuket opens its doors, many foreigners have expressed disagreement of the 14-stay requirement before travelling to other provinces under the sandbox initiative.

Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn was quoted saying by The Nation more than 50 per cent of 29, 700 foreigners who planned to visit the island had cancelled their plan after the government imposed 14-day stay requirement in the island.

He added that the ministry is requesting a one month grace period to evaluate the implementation and after a month's trial if there were no infections, the ministry would suggest lowering the minimum stay requirement to seven days in Phuket and then extend it to other provinces.

Meanwhile, over the last 24 hours, Thailand recorded 2, 804 new Covid-19 cases, including 924 in Bangkok, with 18 deaths bringing the total infections in the kingdom to 195, 909 and 1, 449 fatalities to date.

In a statement, CCSA said the new cases, a total of 2, 743 were local transmissions including 767 via active case detection and 409 prisoners while 61 imported cases reported.

It said the new fatalities involved 11 females and seven males aged between 47 and 86 years old. - Bernama

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