CM – COVID-19: Three more Thai islands are open to vaccinated travelers

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Three more Thai islands opened to vaccinated foreign tourists on Thursday despite a nationwide spike in Covid-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant.

The islands – Samui, Tao and Phangan – welcomed visitors as part of the kingdom’s efforts to revitalize its ailing tourism industry.

Thailand launched its « sandbox » program on July 1st, which enables vaccinated travelers to visit Phuket Island. Tourists do not have to quarantine themselves in a hotel, but cannot leave Phuket for two weeks.

As part of the extension on Thursday, tourists have to stay in an approved hotel on Samui for a week and can leave their accommodation on the fourth day.

You must present a negative Covid-19 test before venturing to Tao or Phangan after the first week.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O-Cha said communication is important for tourists to understand that the conditions for the Phuket and Samui programs are different.

« We hope Thailand’s tourism industry recovers as soon as possible so that happiness returns to the Thais, » said Prayuth from afar during an opening ceremony.

The leader has been in self-isolation for almost two weeks after being exposed to a positive case during the Phuket program launch.

The rest of the country is struggling to contain infections from the Delta variant, which, according to the authorities, now accounts for almost 80 percent of the number of cases.

The virus hotspot Bangkok and nine provinces are subject to tightened restrictions, including a night curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than five people.

Thailand recorded almost 9,200 new infections and a daily record of 98 deaths on Thursday.

Phuket has welcomed 5,000 foreign tourists since reopening, 10 of whom tested positive for Covid-19.

The President of the Koh Samui Tourism Association, Ratchaporn Poolsawadee, described the start of the « Samui Plus » program on Thursday as a gentle opening.

« Arrivals are expected to improve after tourists learn the rules and regulations. And then some rules and regulations could be tweaked, » Ratchaporn told AFP.

Tourism accounts for one fifth of Thailand’s national income and the economy has suffered the worst development since the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

Ratchaporn said tourism was worth $ 918 million in Samui before the pandemic, but the virus reduced sales to $ 88 million last year.

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