Forced repeat testing costs threaten Canadian sandbox vacation

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PHUKET: Confusion over additional COVID testing required for Sandbox tourists to travel “freely” to other Sandbox tourist spots has put a retired Canadian couple’s 11-week vacation at risk.

“As long as all 3 test results are negative, after 14 nights in Phuket, you will be able to travel freely within Thailand.” Not enough. Tests are required to travel to other parts of the country, including other sandbox areas such as Samui or Phi Phi Island. Image: Screenshot from TATNews.org

The couple, staying in Phuket as Sandbox tourists, learned that traveling to Phi Phi Island and Koh Samui as part of their extended vacation would cost them an additional B35,000, or nearly US $ 1,100. just to pass the COVID tests. made to allow them to travel to other tourist areas designated Sandbox.

The couple also emailed [email protected] and [email protected] about a week ago for clarification on the rules, but received no response.

The couple, both aged 72, alerted Phuket News of their situation last night. Both were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine and spent eight weeks completing the Certificate of Entry (CoE) required to enter Thailand via Phuket as part of the Sandbox Tourism Program through the Royal Thai Embassy in Ottawa.

“We arrived in Phuket on September 7th and will complete the required 14 day stay tomorrow. [Sept 21], said the husband Phuket News today.

“We both tested negative on the three mandatory RT-PCR tests,” he added. The results of the third and final mandatory RT-PCR test were released on Saturday (September 18).

The couple landed in Phuket and were impressed with the process at Phuket Airport to enter the country. “The experience at the airport was excellent, compared to all the bureaucracy we had to deal with before coming here. We were out of there in an hour, ”the husband said,

The plan was to stay 28 days in Phuket, then a week in Phi Phi (departing October 5), then return to Phuket and fly to Samui for four weeks, then return to Phuket for two weeks. extra before going home.

This plan was seriously compromised by the additional costs and inconvenience of forced repeated COVID testing in order to travel to other areas of the Sandbox “orange zone”.

Previously, they were informed that both will have to undergo RT-PCR tests to get to Phi Phi, and again to return to Phuket, and again to travel to Samui, and again to return to Phuket, and once more for take the flight home.

RT-PCR tests cost 3,500 B each. In total, the additional tests would have cost an additional 35,000 B, or nearly US $ 1,100. This is in addition to the three tests that both have already completed, at a cost of B16,000, or about US $ 500.

The decision to come to Thailand was based on the opinion of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) clearly stating in its notice to tourists explaining the Phuket Sandbox program saying: “As long as the 3 test results are negative, after a period of 14 nights in Phuket, you will be able to travel freely within Thailand.

This review, titled “Phuket Sandbox FAQs (Updated)”, was last updated seven days ago. The above quote remains on the TATNews.org website today (September 20).

Throughout the WCC process, no one informed the Canadian couple otherwise.

The couple pointed out that they were exactly the type of tourists the TAT was asking to come on vacation to Thailand through the Sandbox program. Not counting the cost of plane tickets, the couple had to spend US $ 16,000 for their vacation in Thailand.

The husband stressed, “Without bragging about it, we are retired and relatively well off. We have booked at all SHA + hotels, all five star hotels. We are not trying to cut costs. We’re just trying to figure out what all this extra testing is for.

“Keep in mind that Canada is 65-75% vaccinated and has opened up to visitors from all over the world. All that is required is that you are fully vaccinated and have tested negative by a PCR test within 72 hours of travel.

“With all this, you have to ask yourself what is the use of vaccination?” he added.

“If I had known this before, I would have gone to Portugal and spent my time there without any problem,” he said.

“It is not practical to continue having tests that cost US $ 100 each when we are fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine.

“Sandbox tourists should be allowed to go to open tourist areas after spending 14 days in Phuket. We should not be at the mercy of local provinces with conflicting rules, ”he added.

“If we are forced to do one test to travel to Phi Phi, then another test to return to Phuket, another test to travel to Samui, another to return from Samui to Phuket, and yet another to take the flight from back, it seems to indicate to us that the TAT is asking us to spend an additional $ 1,100 on testing after spending $ 700 ($ 200 for the initial PCR test coming to Thailand) on testing (two people) and that Thailand does not believe in Pfizer vaccinations.

“We are also treated differently from local tourists. Local tourists can take antigen tests, but we are asked to take the RT-PCR test, ”he said.

“If we are asked to take these tests, we will go home and not spend an additional $ 1,100 to get to Phi Phi, Koh Samui and Phuket,” the husband confirmed.

“When we applied to come here, we were led to believe that after two weeks in Phuket and three negative tests, we are free to travel to Thailand, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.”

In the last couple’s predicament update, Phuket News was informed this afternoon that the SHA + manager has now informed the couple that to return to Phuket from Phi Phi Island and from Samui would only require one ATK test each time.

“At this time, traveling to Samui will require a Samui health pass, vaccination certificates and NO TESTING. This is also good news, ”said the husband. “This was first confirmed by Bangkok Air and then by the SHA + manager at our hotel.”

The husband noted that he only learned of the stricter conditions for traveling to Phi Phi Island after he landed in Phuket. The island has suffered an epidemic directly linked to construction workers who work there at a sewage treatment plant.

“Phi Phi’s situation is until September 24, and they don’t know what the rules will be, and they don’t know why Phi Phi wants a PCR test of the Sandbox tourists,” the husband said.

“The situation can change at any time, so you should know the restrictions only a week before traveling,” he added.

The husband also pointed out, “We love Thailand and Thais, that’s why we are here.

“We agree that the safety of tourists is of paramount importance, but going too far and creating unnecessary demands compromises health and safety, does not improve it.”


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