Phuket's 'sandbox' plan has been on high gear since the Thai government approved the reopening proposal, but a recent surge in infections is threatening to thwart the island's July reopening timeline as vaccines are allocated to other parts of the country.
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 resetting 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.
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, Thai Hotels Association (THA) association president Marisa Sukosol Nunbhakdi has started rallying hotel members to partner with hospitals to set up "hospitels" to treat asymptomatic patients. Several hotels in Bangkok, where the surge is concentrated, have already answered the call.
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 said in a Reuters report.
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 symptoms. These patients must also agree to stay at these hotels and take care of themselves.
On the medical front, hotels must provide patients with a digital thermometer and pulse oximeter, and have portable x-rays available. The team should include one infection control nurse, one doctor, one pharmacist, as well as a ratio of one nurse per 20 patients.
Currently, more than 100 quarantine hotels — already partnered with private hospitals — could deliver up to 10,000 beds, while 34 hotels have joined the 'hospitels' plan, adding about 7,200 beds, said Thares Krainairawiwong of the Health Service Support Department, in a 20 April Coconuts Bangkok report.
The Bangkok Arena Sports Center on 18 April also began housing makeshift beds made out of cardboard boxes to make way for more infected patients, the report added.
Source: Travel Weekly Asia