The “Phuket Sandbox” a test program to welcome back foreign tourists to Thailand that have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, will not be opening the island’s bars, pubs, gogos, and nightclubs at the start of July along with the rest of the island.
Patong Mayor Chalermsak Maneesri confirmed the news to Phuket press earlier today which was picked up by national media as well. The announcement is likely to be one of several changes or precautionary measures suggested by the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, or CCSA, along with the Thai Tourism Authority. You can read more about the Sandbox and the overall program, which is still not finalized, here.
The reasoning for not opening the popular nightlife and entertainment industry was concern over prior clusters of Covid-19 that came from bars and nightclubs, according to Chalermsak. This is despite an expected 70% of the island to be vaccinated by the time the island opens to tourists, a requirement all foreign tourists are fully vaccinated and pass multiple Covid-19 tests, and domestic requirements that require all island visitors to be either vaccinated, test negative for Covid-19, or do a fourteen-day quarantine.
There is also currently a national closure order for all “entertainment venues” and a national ban on sales of alcohol in restaurants set by the CCSA. This order has been in place for roughly two months, with no sign of lifting anytime soon.
Mayor Chalermsak did not state if the ban on alcohol in restaurants would be considered to be lifted prior to the opening of Phuket, although the Phuket Governor has previously stated that an easing of rules would be considered at hotels and restaurants, but not guaranteed, also citing Covid-19 concerns.
The Patong Mayor stated that besides the national ban by the CCSA that the Phuket Governor and the Thailand Tourism Authority, or TAT, had agreed that the entertainment venues would be kept closed for the start of the Phuket Sandbox. It was not stated when they would be considered for opening.
The TAT has been focusing heavily on nature, beaches, and the restoration of the island’s environment due to a lack of tourists and traffic over the past year, hoping to draw those who wish to experience natural attractions.
The decision drew many angry comments online from both potential tourists and business owners on the island. Some bar and nightclub owners stated on social media they had their entire staff vaccinated and had been preparing for the opening and to be told they could not open, despite their sector having been arguably the hardest hit over the past year, was unacceptable. The Patong Mayor did state, however, that he would focus on providing economic assistance and support for those sectors that would not yet be allowed to open.