DestinationsThailand's virus surge could thwart Phuket's sandbox timeline while more hotels consider offering temporary care for patients.

As 'hospitel' move surges, Phuket sandbox plan retreats

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A fresh wave of outbreaks has thwarted Phuket's vaccination plan of inoculating 70% of its residents ahead of its proposed July opening, as vaccines initially allocated for the island have to be shared with other provinces.
A fresh wave of outbreaks has thwarted Phuket's vaccination plan of inoculating 70% of its residents ahead of its proposed July opening, as vaccines initially allocated for the island have to be shared with other provinces. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Gam1983

Phuket's 'sandbox' plan has been on high gear since the Thai government approved the reopening proposal, but a virus surge is threatening to thwart the island's July reopening timeline as vaccines are allocated to other parts of the country with more urgent need of them.

A key tenet for Phuket's sandbox plan is to vaccinate 70% of the island’s population against Covid-19 to achieve herd immunity ahead of the reopening date.

However, the Tourism and Sports Ministry will be reseting this timeline. Reports have surfaced of the province's lack of vaccine doses, following yet another wave of the virus and spike in daily infections.

Phuket's plan had been to inoculate 100,000 people in April with two doses each, with another round of some 930,000 doses set for delivery after. The outbreak put a halt to that plan, since the vaccines now needed to be shared with other provinces.

Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has announced plans to meet with all relevant stakeholders this week to discuss the new reopening date. If herd immunity cannot be reached in Phuket, only certain parts of the island would be considered for reopening, reported the Bangkok Post.

Amid the country's third virus wave, the Thai Hotels Association (THA) association president Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi began rallying hotel members to partner with hospitals to set up "hospitels" to treat asymptomatic patients.

Best positioned for this move are quarantine hotels, as "they have all the processes in place such as preventing cross contamination, wearing PPE suits, cleaning, making sure floors are not carpeted," Nunbhakdi was reported by Reuters as saying.

Guidelines are already out from The Ministry of Public Health for interested hotels looking to join the programme. This includes having more than 30 rooms on site, passing the ASQ (alternative state quarantine) evaluation, acknowledgement by surrounding communities, and the capacity to care for patients who have been hospitalised for up to a week and show no signs of more symptoms. These patients must also agree to stay at these hotels and take care of themselves.

On the medical front, these hotels must provide per patient with a digital thermometer and pulse oximeter, and have portable x-rays. The team should include one infection control nurse, one doctor, one pharmacist, as well as a ratio of one nurse per 20 patients.

Currently, 23 of such hotels have been approved to care for Covid-19 patients, offering a combined 4,900 beds with some 2,000 patients currently warded, said The Nation Thailand.

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