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Bangkok Post

New 'sandbox' for Samui, Chang and Phuket islands

Russian tourists stay at the beach in Phuket on March 12, 2022. (Reuters photo)

The Public Health Ministry will propose declaring Covid-19 endemic on three major tourist islands -- Koh Samui in Surat Thani, Koh Chang in Trat and Phuket -- paving the way for night entertainment venues there to reopen.

Health permanent secretary Kiattiphum Wongrajit said on Thursday the ministry would seek approval from the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) for its "endemic sandbox" initiative, a first step towards declaring Covid-19 an endemic disease nationwide.

Criteria for the endemic sandbox included declining infections, the readiness level of medical services and high vaccination levels among people in those areas, he said.

"We selected the islands that are the country's top tourist destinations first because of their limited areas so diseases can be more easily controlled there," Dr Kiattiphum said.

He expected the implementation of the initiative would lead to the government's declaration of Covid-19 as an endemic disease in July.

In the sandboxes, nightspots would be able to reopen under certain restrictions, he said, adding customers would have to be fully vaccinated. People with underlying illnesses would be advised to avoid these places.

Dr Kiattiphum said face masks would remain a general requirement.

Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the Covid-19 situation is expected to further improve later this month and next month, so the ministry will likely lower its Covid-19 outbreak alert further to Level 2.

"Most people will be able to resume almost all of the activities they used to do before the pandemic," he said.