Phuket sandbox could be closed if there is a widespread outbreak

A widespread Covid outbreak in Phuket could mean the cancellation of the Sandbox scheme, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said on Tuesday.

In the past 24 hours, Phuket reported four cases, and it has reported less than 10 cases per day since May 16.

“If there are more than 90 cases per week, Phuket will be closed. But different levels of measures will also be implemented before the decision for ultimate closure,” said Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, the CCSA’s spokesman.

In addition to the number of new cases, Taweesin said the following factors could lead to the cancellation of the project:

  • If the virus spreads to all three districts, and to more than six subdistricts.
  • If there are more than three clusters with widespread infections, and where the cases cannot be linked.
  • If the number of hospitalized patients exceeds 80 per cent of the province’s hospital bed capacity.  
  • If a new variant becomes widespread and uncontrollable.

When any of these factors are breached, the CCSA will revise the Sandbox using four levels of measures:

  • Reducing the number of activities.
  • Implement a “sealed route” strategy in which visitors will only be able to access certain available places using designated routes.
  • Implement a “hotel quarantine” strategy which restricts visitors to staying within their hotel.
  • In the event that all else fails, the project will be terminated.

Likewise, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan, and Koh Tao will be subject to these measures when they reopen, Taweesin said.

Currently, doctors are concerned about the effectiveness of available vaccines in Thailand, including Sinovac and AstraZeneca, against Delta and Beta variants.

On Tuesday, the Department of Medical Sciences (DMS) reported that it had found two Beta variant cases in Phuket. The cases are linked to the cluster at Markaz Community at Poryani village in Yala province.

Since May 29, the CCSA reported 402 cases linked to the Poryani outbreak in 12 provinces.

According to the DMS, the dominant variant in Thailand is still the Alpha variant, first identified in the United Kingdom.

Of the 6,343 samples that were taken from around the country between April 14 and June 20, 5,641 cases (88.93 per cent) were identified as the Alpha variant, 664 cases (10.47 per cent) were the Delta variant, and the remaining 38 cases (0.6 per cent) were the Beta variant.

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