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Hopes ride on Sandbox success

The island’s beleaguered travel industry is pinning its hopes on the “pilot” scheme to trigger recovery, but it will be a slow start as a nation-wide surge in Covid-19 cases (more than 5,000 new cases reported Monday) puts Thailand in the high-risk category, according to assessments made by the Global Covid-19 Index.

Expectations are realistic within the travel industry. It’s a start for a country that saw tourist arrivals plummet from more than 39 million in 2019 to 6.7 million. If the gamble succeeds, the government says it will replicate the scheme at other island destinations, and by October, a phased reopening could take place.

However, reopening will depend entirely on the country accelerating its vaccination programme as fast as possible. It will also require bringing the massive increases in cases and the rising death toll under control fast.

On Monday, the Thai government decided to close off high-risk areas, including construction worker housing, in Greater Bangkok and in four southern border provinces, for 30 days effective 28 June, according to the National News Bureau of Thailand.

The news agency quoted the Prime Minister saying, “measures are intended to deal with the main sources of Covid-19 clusters over the past several weeks.”

The near lockdown measures impact Bangkok and its surrounding provinces as well as Pattani, Yala, Songkhla and Narathiwat in the deep south of the country.

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