A government spokesman said yesterday that the Phuket Sandbox scheme, which is aimed at revitalising the economy and tourism, has been proceeding well, with tourists continuing to arrive, but its successes have been tarnished by “fake news” on social media of its imminent collapse.
Thanakorn Wangboonkongchan, secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the minister and spokesman for the Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA), said false reports were being disseminated on social media that Phuket had been ordered closed because COVID-19 had spread out of control.
Mr Wangboonkongchan said this is not true.
The Phuket Sandbox programme was still being implemented, with tourists continuing to arrive.
He asked people not to share such misinformation as it could cause panic.
Health measures were being strictly implemented to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in the island province, he added.
Mr Wangboonkongchan said tourism was a major source of income for Phuket, normally about 450 billion baht per year.
Due to the pandemic, revenue had dropped to only 108 billion baht in 2020 and 5.2 billion baht so far in 2021.
Businesses had been shuttered and people were unemployed.
The Phuket Sandbox was the government’s pilot programme aimed at revitalising the battered economy.
Since its launch on 1st July, at least 4,778 tourists had arrived from overseas.
Hotels with the Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus sign have had 176,993 night room bookings throughout the third quarter (July-September), said Mr Wangboonkongchan.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) had set a target of up to 100,000 tourists to arrive during the three months and that would generate 8.9 billion baht in revenue, he said.
Phuket deputy governor Piyapong Chuwong and provincial health office chief Kusak Kukiatikoon also came out yesterday for a press conference to slam reports of the programme’s demise.
Mr Chuwong said 4,568 tourists had arrived from 1st-11th July.
He said on 11th July alone, there were 651 arrivals.
There was an average of 6 flights per day bringing tourists to Phuket from overseas, he said.
“The Phuket Sandbox is still going strong, judging from the number of flights per day, with daily arrivals of about 600, and booked room nights of more than 100,000,” the deputy governor said.
“Although some tourists were found to have COVID-19, this was not unexpected,” he said.
“We have prepared measures to prevent new clusters from occurring.”
Dr Kukiatikoon said that as of Monday the accumulated number of COVID-19 cases in Phuket was 788, of whom 720 had recovered and 72 were still under treatment. Daily infections had been below 10 since 15th May.
The number of coronavirus infections was 403 in April, 259 in May, 73 in June and 58 in July.
Of the 58 found during 1st-11th July, 52 were Thais and only 6 were tourists under the Phuket Sandbox scheme.
The 6 foreign arrivals were a man from the United Arab Emirates, three female tourists from Myanmar, a man from South Africa and a man from Switzerland, he said.
“The infections found among the Phuket Sandbox arrivals will not cause the programme to collapse,” Dr Kukiatikoon said.
“In this situation, the chance of seeing zero infections is very slim.”
“We have 23 medical teams to investigate any infections. Those considered to be high risk are quickly quarantined.”
“Our vaccination programme has covered over 70% of the Phuket population and all disease control measures are being fully enforced,” he said.