WRISTBAND TRACKING AND CONSTANT SURVEILLANCE; WELCOME TO THE PHUKET ‘SANDBOX’!

With two weeks to go, reports in the Bangkok Post have described the controls and measures to be put in place as Phuket steps up preparations for the July 1 launch of its “Sandbox” scheme. 

The province has now begun rehearsing immigration and Covid-19 control measures to be implemented at its international airport, three seaports and security checkpoints on the road leading to the island.

Covid-19 screening measures will be in place for all foreign tourists arriving under the “Phuket Sandbox” program, while security checkpoints on the road connecting it with the mainland will screen all those leaving or arriving at the province.

Foreigners from countries with a low or medium risk of Covid-19 transmission must produce a certificate of entry (COE) before boarding their plane. They will be further required to undergo an immediate Covid-19 test on arrival before being transferred to their pre-booked hotel, said Phichet Panaphong, a deputy provincial governor.

A second test will be given on day six and a third one on day 13 before those who test negative are allowed to travel to the rest of the country.

The foreigners must also submit proof of having bought a Covid-19 health insurance policy of at least US$100,000, hotel booking documents and a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test carried out within 72 hours before travelling.

About 129,000 foreigners are expected to visit Phuket under the Sandbox program, which is projected to generate about 11.4 billion baht in income, said Mr Phichet.

The reports state that while staying in Phuket during the mandatory 14-day period, the precise locations of tourists will be tracked via the global positioning system (GPS) feature on an English version of Mor Chana, as well as a location-tracking wristbands.

Facial recognition security cameras will be installed to detect any tourists who try to leave Phuket before completing the mandatory 14-day stay.

Penalties are being considered for any foreigners who break the rules and anyone who tries to help them.

In Surat Thani, a group of about 180 local tourism business operators and officials on Tuesday took part in a brainstorming session on the province’s plan to adopt a similar tourism sandbox program from August.

Ramluek Atsawachin, president of Koh Tao’s tourism business association, said the scheme would apply to Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

EDITORS NOTE: 

It’s hard to imagine any tourist enjoying a carefree holiday knowing they are under constant surveillance with their every move tracked by officialdom and the threat of punishment for ‘breaking the rules’ looming. 

However the reality of being able to track the ‘precise location’ of every visitor may be mission impossible, especially if the projected numbers are anywhere near to being realised.

Without any stated restrictions on movements on the island, including sleeping away from pre-booked accommodation, it’s hard to understand why is this required.     

It will be interesting to read the TripAdvisor comments from naïve travellers who did not have clear understanding of this regime before booking a holiday to the ‘land of smiles’.