Bali Reopens To Foreign Travellers From All Countries, Quarantine Mandatory

Direct international flights to Bali have resumed for the first time in two years as Indonesia opens the resort island to foreign travellers from all countries, but mandatory quarantine remains in place for all visitors.

Officials had said in October that Bali would welcome foreign arrivals from 19 countries that meet World Health Organization criteria, such as having their Covid-19 cases under control. But there were no direct international flights to Bali until Thursday, when Garuda Indonesia operated its first such flight in two years from Tokyo.

Singapore Airlines will introduce a regular direct route to and from Denpasar in Bali starting Feb. 16, said Taufan Yudhistira, the public relations manager at Bali’s international airport.

Fully vaccinated travellers need to quarantine for five days in a hotel or on a liveaboard boat certified by the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, and travellers who have received one dose of Covid-19 vaccine must quarantine for seven days.

Indonesia reported 27,197 new coronavirus infections and 38 deaths on Thursday in the latest 24-hour period. The country has seen more than 4.4 million total cases since the pandemic began.

The country’s latest surge in cases, driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant, has mostly been concentrated in Jakarta, but in recent days infections have “increased significantly” in Java and Bali, said Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister who leads the Covid-19 response in Java and Bali.

The quarantine for foreign arrivals is intended to prevent further spread of the virus, said Pandjaitan.

Before the pandemic, Bali’s airport accommodated more than 200 international flights with at least one million passengers per day in 2019. The island was closed to international flights after Covid-19 hit the world’s fourth most populous country in 2020.

Tourism is the main source of income in Bali, which is home to more than 4 million people who are mainly Hindu in the mostly Muslim archipelago nation. Bali’s tourist areas were deserted two decades ago after visitors were scared off by deadly terror attacks that targeted foreigners, but the island has worked to overcome that image.

The reopening of Bali to travellers from all countries will help boost the island’s economy, which has been badly affected by the pandemic, Pandjaitan said.

The reopening will also serve as a “trial,” said Tourism and Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno, as the government prepares to host G-20 events in Bali later this year.

A G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in mid-February was supposed to be held in Bali but has been relocated to Jakarta because of the surge in Covid-19 cases. Some attendees will join the events virtually.

Mumbai: Passengers from UAE exempted from compulsory week-long home quarantine, RT-PCR test upon arrival

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India] (ANI): Passengers arriving from United Arab Emirates (UAE), including Dubai are now exempted from compulsory seven-day home quarantine and RT-PCR test upon their arrival to Mumbai, as per an order from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
“To contain the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in the city, special SOPs for monitoring of international travelers arriving from United Arab Emirates (UAE) including Dubai in Mumbai were issued under circular No. MGC/F/5819 Dated 29.12.2021. As per these SOPs, 7 days Home quarantine and on arrival RT-PCR test was made mandatory for such passengers. These directives are now revised as below: 1). No special SOPs henceforth will be applicable for passengers coming from United Arab Emirates (UAE) including Dubai 2). Guidelines applicable to international travelers arriving from “Countries other than Countries at-risk” will be made applicable to trave*rs arriving from United Arab Emirates (UAE) including Dubai,” reads the order issued on Sunday. These directions will be enforced with effect from midnight of January 17 2022. (Image source: Instagram)

Italy cancels quarantine for those vaccinated with 3 doses after contacts with patients

Rome [Italy]: Italy has revised anti-coronavirus measures in light of the spread of the Omicron strain of COVID-19, among others cancelling the quarantine for people inoculated with three doses of vaccines after contacts with COVID-19 patients.
The new regulation was adopted on Wednesday by the Council of Ministers following a meeting of the committee on COVID-19. The quarantine after contact with COVID-19 patients will not be also mandatory for those who got two doses if the inoculation took place less than 120 days before the contact.
The new measures also extended the use of the enhanced green pass, a sanitary document for those fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. Starting from January 10, the enhanced green pass will be mandatory for all types of transport.
Italy, like many other countries, is currently facing a new wave of coronavirus linked to the Omicron strain.

Omicron: Nepal makes quarantine mandatory for travelers arriving from 67 countries

Kathmandu [Nepal]: Nepal on Saturday made two weeks quarantine mandatory for travelers arriving from 67 different countries, mainly from European and African countries, in wake of the rising Omicron variant of coronavirus.
“Passengers, traveling from the countries mentioned, are requested to stay in Hotel Quarantine for 7 days at their own expense. After staying seven days in Hotel Quarantine, in case of a negative test of Covid-19 by RT-PCR method, it is requested to stay in the home quarantine for additional 7 days and send the person with a positive result to the designated isolation center or hospital,”Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement. “Considering the upsurging spread of the new variant of COVID-19 (Omicron) initially found in African countries and gradually spreading in European and Asian countries, Nepal (Council of Ministers) has decided on 29 November 2021 to arrange provision the travelers traveling to and from Nepal,” read the statement.
The statement said that the following arrangements have been made for the arrival of passengers from 67 countries in Nepal.
The European and Asian countries are mainly included in the list of countries, including Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, United States.

“The entry/exit management of other travelers except mentioned above will be regulated as per the prior notice of the Department of Immigration dated 24 September 2021 and 2 December 2021 published as per the Travel Management Order for the Travelers Arriving and Deporting from Nepal 2021,” the statement added.
A new variant of COVID-19 was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 25. As per the WHO, the first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on November 9 this year.
On November 26, the WHO named the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, which has been detected in South Africa, as ‘Omicron’. The WHO has classified Omicron as a ‘variant of concern’.

Omicron: Japan To Add India & More Under Strict Quarantine Vigilance

In an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 variant Omicron, Japan will add India, Greece, Romania and four US states under strict quarantine vigilance.

Japanese nationals and foreign residents travelling to Japan from India, Greece, Romania and four US states will have to undergo stringent quarantine regulations Sunday onwards, in order to control the spread of the Omicron variant, reported Kyodo news.

While, foreign residents, as well as Japanese nationals travelling from Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York to Japan, will have to mandatorily spend three days of their two-week quarantine at government-designated facilities, reported Kyodo News.

With emerging Omicron cases in the country and to curb the further spread, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno on Friday announced the expansion of the list addressing a press conference. A government task force made the decision to control the increasing number of new variant cases in Japan.

The list for three-day mandatory quarantine at government-designated facilities already includes countries such as Austria, Ecuador and France. While many are being subject to stringent quarantine requirements, such as staying in government-designated facilities for over 10 days, reported Kyodo News.

The first Omicron case was reported on Tuesday in Japan, causing it to deny re-entry of all foreigners, including residents with long-term visas, who have recently been to any of 10 African countries likely to have widespread infections of the variant.

The country has further banned new entries by foreigners from around the globe. 

Maharashtra mandates 7-day institutional quarantine for international passengers

New Delhi [India] : As fresh guidelines will be effective for international passengers arriving in India in view of Omicron concern from December 1, the Maharashtra government has made it mandatory a 7-day institutional quarantine for passengers coming from ‘at risk’ countries.

“From December 1, arriving passengers from high-risk countries will be segregated from those arriving from low-risk countries. Adequate RT-PCR testing facility in international arrivals in form of 48 registration counters and 40 sampling booths will be set up,” Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport said in a statement.

“In addition to normal RT-PCR, 30 Rapid PCR machines, are also available for the passengers having connecting onward flights with short connecting time. This facility will be upscaled further if required,” they said.

“For passengers who haven’t done pre-booking of RT-PCR test online, QR codes displayed at various locations in the arrival corridor will be placed. Physical forms for RT-PCR registration is also made available to passengers on board with help of airlines which they can fill before disembarking from a flight,” the airport authority said.

Seven-day quarantine must for all international passengers : Bengaluru

Bengaluru (Karnataka) [India] : After two South Africa-returnees tested positive for COVID-19 and amid increasing concern over the new variant ‘Omicron’, the Bengaluru airport has made seven days quarantine compulsory for all international passengers.
Addressing the media after inspecting Kannur International Airport Ltd (KIAL) airport yesterday, the Bengaluru Rural District Health Officer Tippeswamy said, “All international passengers who test negative for COVID-19 on arrival in Bengaluru will be put in quarantine for seven days. They will be tested again after seven days.” 598 such passengers are under surveillance, he informed.
Tippeswamy conducted a video conference with senior officials of the health and airport authorities and said that they are mainly checking the vaccination report, RT PCR test and Rapid antigen test reports of the passengers coming from high-risk countries.
“We are also conducting RT PCR test at the airport for the passengers arriving from high-risk countries. If they are found negative, then they will be suggested to home quarantine. If the passenger tests positive, they will be sent to a designated hospital for isolation,” he added.
The District Health Officer also informed that in view of the new variant, new guidelines are expected by today or tomorrow.
During the virtual discussion, as per Tippeswamy, they discussed the issue of passengers coming from Kerala and Maharastra to Bengaluru without RT-PCR test and vaccination report.
“We’ve already directed airlines to check reports compulsorily and not to allow anyone to travel without the report,” he said.
As per the Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar, the samples of one of the two passengers had tested positive for novel coronavirus which is “a little different from the Delta variant.”
While speaking to the media, Sudhakar said, “One is relatively better and the other, we are finding it a little different from Delta variant. We have sent the sample to the Centre’s lab. We are waiting for final inference.”
Meanwhile, in view of the new variant of COVID-19, the Dakshina Kannada district administration resumed the Covid screening at Talapady Checkpost, conducting RT-PCR tests of those arriving in the district from Kerala without COVID-19 negative report.
Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraja Bommai on Monday asked people not to panic about the new COVID-19 variant ‘Omicron’ and suggested following COVID-19 precautionary measures strictly.
Karnataka reported 315 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths in the past 24 hours.

French PM tested positive for COVID-19

Paris [France] : French Prime Minister Jean Castex has tested positive for COVID-19, French media reported on Monday.
Returning from Brussels Monday afternoon after meeting with his Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo, Castex learnt that one of his daughters tested positive for COVID-19, Le Figaro reported. De Croo will be tested on Wednesday and will remain in quarantine until the result of his test, local media reported.
Several senior members of the Belgian government will also go into quarantine to avoid any risks.
French ministers in the delegation include minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, Interior minister Gerald Darmanin, minister of Justice Eric Dupond-Moretti, and Secretary of State for European Affairs Clement Beaune.
Castex “immediately got a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, which turned out to be positive,” the French newspaper cited the prime minister’s office as saying.
The schedule of the French head of government is to be modified for the coming days in order for him to continue working in his isolation.

New Zealand Eases Quarantine But Won’t Welcome Tourists Yet

New Zealand officials said Thursday they will gradually loosen their border quarantine requirements, which have been among the toughest in the world throughout the pandemic.

But while the changes will make it easier for New Zealanders stranded abroad to return home, officials gave no date for when tourists might be welcomed back. That change is likely still months away.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that from next month, most people arriving in New Zealand would need to spend seven days in a quarantine hotel run by the military, half the previous requirement.

He said some new arrivals from low-risk Pacific island countries could skip quarantine altogether and isolate at home.

He said the new rules were an interim step ahead of broader reopening measures that would be gradually introduced once more than 90 per cent of New Zealanders aged 12 and over were fully vaccinated. So far, 72 per cent of eligible people have had both shots.

The change follows a growing outcry from New Zealanders who have been trying to return home but have been unable to secure spots in the quarantine system. Some have resorted to legal action.

“I acknowledge that there’s a lot of pressure there. My message to the people who are keen to get back into New Zealand is: There isn’t very long to wait now,” Hipkins said. “And encouraging their fellow New Zealanders to get fully vaccinated will help us get to that point faster.”

Hipkins said he expected most new arrivals would be able to isolate at home by sometime in the first quarter of next year. He said the first priority was New Zealanders and those with valid visas.

“Tourists are more of a challenge, in that they don’t necessarily have somewhere to isolate on arrival,” Hipkins said. “But we’ll work our way through all of that.”

Political opponents said the changes didn’t go far enough and that fully vaccinated travellers returning home posed little risk.

Before the pandemic began, more than 3 million tourists visited New Zealand each year, and the industry was among the nation’s largest earners of foreign income.

For more than a year after the pandemic began, the strict quarantine system helped New Zealand remain almost completely virus-free and allowed life to return to normal.

But an outbreak of the more contagious delta variant in Auckland more than two months ago has proved impossible to extinguish, forcing officials to abandon their previous zero-tolerance approach in favour of a suppression strategy.

With the virus continuing to spread in Auckland, which remains in lockdown, the border requirements had begun to seem outdated.

Thursday’s announcement came after officials said two people in the city of Christchurch had caught the virus after one returned from Auckland. There was no immediate evidence the virus was spreading further in the city. 

Oman approves Covaxin COVID-19 vaccines for travel without quarantine

Muscat [Oman]: The Government of the Sultanate of Oman on Wednesday added Indian-made Covaxin to the approved list of COVID-19 vaccines for travel to the country without quarantine.
“COVAXIN has now been added to the approved list of COVID-19 vaccines for travel to Oman without quarantine. This will facilitate travellers from India vaccinated with COVAXIN,” tweeted the Embassy of India in Muscat. “All passengers from India who have received two doses of Covaxin at least 14 days before the estimated arrival date will now be able to travel to Oman without the requirement of quarantine. All other COVID-19 related requirements/conditions, such as pre-arrival RT-PCR test shall be applicable for such passengers,” read the press release of the Indian Embassy.
This notification will significantly ease travel to Oman for Indian nationals who have taken Covaxin. Passengers who have taken AstraZeneca/Covishield are already permitted to travel to Oman without quarantine.
Covaxin, India’s first indigenous COVID-19 vaccine, is developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) for Emergency Use Listing has decided that additional clarifications from the manufacturer are needed to conduct a final EUL risk-benefit assessment for global use of the vaccine.
The UN health body said that the TAG expects to reconvene for the final risk-benefit assessment on November 3.
Bharat Biotech has been submitting data to WHO on a rolling basis and submitted additional information at the UN health body’s request on September 27.
Earlier this month, WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan had said that the UN health body’s technical advisory group will meet on October 26 to consider Emergency Use Listing (EUL) for Covaxin.Last week, WHO had said a vaccine recommended by it for emergency use must be evaluated thoroughly.

India To Lift Quarantine Requirement For International Travellers From Today

Fully vaccinated travellers, who are coming from a country with which India has reciprocal arrangements for mutual acceptance of World Health Organization (WHO) approved Covid-19 vaccines, shall be allowed to leave the airport and need not undergo home quarantine and testing from Monday, according to the revised guidelines for international arrivals released on Wednesday.

They will, however, have to produce a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR report. These guidelines for international arrivals supersede all others issued on and after February 17 this year, the Union health ministry has said.

“The global trajectory of Covid-19 pandemic continues to decline with certain regional variations. The need to monitor the continuously changing nature of virus and the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) must still remain in focus,” the ministry said.

“The existing guidelines (issued on 17th February 2021 with subsequent addendums) for international arrivals in India have been formulated taking a risk-based approach. In view of increasing vaccination coverage across the globe and the changing nature of the pandemic, the existing guidelines for international arrivals in India have been reviewed,” it added.

Check latest SOPs here:

1. If partially or not vaccinated, the travellers need to undertake measures which include submission of sample for post-arrival Covid-19 test at the point of arrival after which they will be allowed to leave the airport, home quarantine for seven days, re-test on the eighth day of arrival in India and if negative, further self monitor their health for the next seven days.

2. The new guidelines provide protocols to be complied with international travellers as well those to be followed by airlines, points of entry (airports, seaports and land border) for risk profiling of passengers.

3. This Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) shall be valid from Monday till further orders. Based on the risk assessment, this document shall be reviewed from time to time, the ministry said.

4. According to the guidelines, while planning for travel, all travellers should submit a self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal before the scheduled travel and upload a negative Covid-19 RT-PCR report. This test should have been conducted within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey.

5. All passengers shall also submit a declaration with respect to the authenticity of the report and will be liable for criminal prosecution if found otherwise.

6. “Travellers from countries excluding those countries at risk will be allowed to leave the airport and shall self-monitor their health for 14 days’ post-arrival. This is applicable to travellers from all countries including countries with which reciprocal arrangements for mutual acceptance of WHO approved Covid-19 vaccines also exist,” the guidelines stated.

7. If the travellers who are under home quarantine or self-health monitoring develop signs and symptoms suggestive of Covid-19 or test positive for Covid-19 on re-testing, they will immediately self-isolate and report to their nearest health facility or call the national helpline number (1075) or state helpline number.

No mandatory 10-day quarantine for UK passengers

New Delhi [India] : After the COVID-19 situation the passengers travelling specially from other countries to India were quarantined under safety rules but now the Indian government on Wednesday has withdrawn travel guidelines issued in a tit-for-tat move to the United Kingdom, lifting the mandatory 10-day quarantine for passengers coming from the UK.
“Revised guidelines for UK nationals arriving in India issued on October 1, 2021, stand withdrawn, and earlier guidelines on international arrival dated February 17, 2021, shall be applicable for those arriving in India from the UK,” the Ministry of Health said.Last month, London announced the new rules making it mandatory for a 10-day quarantine and RT-PCR test even for fully vaccinated Indians travelling to the UK.
Enraged by the move, India in retaliation has imposed reciprocal measures for UK citizens travelling to India on October 1.
However, Britain later announced that there would be no quarantine required for fully vaccinated Indian travellers in the UK from October 11.
In the response, India said it will issue fresh guidelines for foreign nationals from the UK after the British government ordered to discontinue mandatory COVID-19 norms for those vaccinated with Covishield and travelling from India to the UK, sources said on Friday.

Thailand To Reduce Quarantine Period For Visitors

Thailand is keen to welcome back foreign visitors, after nearly 18 months of strict entry policies caused a collapse in tourism, a key sector that drew 40 million visitors in 2019.

Thailand’s disease control committee has proposed a halving of a two-week hotel isolation requirement for vaccinated arrivals, amid delays in plans to waive quarantine and reopen Bangkok and tourist destinations from next month.

Thailand is keen to welcome back foreign visitors, after nearly 18 months of strict entry policies caused a collapse in tourism, a key sector that drew 40 million visitors in 2019.

“Reducing the quarantine is not only about tourism, but will help business travel and foreign students,” senior health official Opas Karnkawinpong told a news conference, adding tests would also be required.

Under the proposal, to be presented to government on Monday, those without vaccination proof would be isolated for 10 days if arriving by air, and 14 days if by land.

Authorities this week delayed reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-thailand/thailand-delays-plan-to-re-open-cities-to-tourists-until-november-idINL4N2QO1UG to November plans to grant vaccinated visitors entry without quarantine, due to the country’s low inoculation rate.

Only Phuket and Samui islands currently waive quarantine for vaccinated tourists, as part of a pilot scheme.

Less than a quarter of the estimated 72 million people living in Thailand have been fully vaccinated.

The country is still fighting its most severe wave of infections, which has accounted for about 99% of its 1.5 million cases and 15,884 deaths.

Fully Vaccinated Indians Can Travel To Turkey Without Quarantine

Good news for travellers from India going to Turkey. You will not be required to undergo the 14-day mandatory quarantine period if you are fully vaccinated. The new rule is already in motion from September 4, according to the Turkish Embassy in New Delhi.

The Embassy has also said, Indian travellers will be able to skip quarantine two weeks after their last dose of vaccination. So plan your trip accordingly. However, travellers must note that a negative RT-PCR test report is still needed, not older than 72 hours.

The Turkish authorities have said that they recognise WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine, and those approved by the Turkish government, which includes Sputnik V, Sinovac, and Pfizer Biontech. Travellers with Covishield are included. Passengers are required to show their vaccine certificate. Travellers who are below the age of 12 are currently exempted from taking the RT-PCR test, or showing a vaccine certificate upon entry.

On the other hand, Covaxin is still not approved. But once it does get approved by the WHO, then travellers with Covaxin will be able to visit Turkey.

Passengers who are unvaccinated, will need to be quarantined in their residence, or any other place that they must declare before travelling. An RT-PCR test will be conducted on the 10th day of quarantine. If the report comes back negative, the quarantine will end. However, if this test is not done on the 10th day, then the quarantine will extend to 14 days.

IPL 2021: 14 bubbles to be created in UAE, team members to quarantine for 6 days before entering bubble

New Delhi [India]: With the Indian Premier League (IPL) all set to resume in the United Arab Emirates from September 19, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring the health and safety of all parties involved. The board has come up with a 46-page health advisory that lays down all the pointers that everyone associated with the IPL needs to follow in order to ensure the smooth functioning of the cash-rich league.
All franchises will have to quarantine for six days before being able to enter the bio-bubble. The board has decided to set up 14 bio-bubbles and out of these 14, eight would belong to franchises.
“Within the Bio-Secure Environment, 14 bubbles will be created as mentioned below: Franchise teams and support staff – 8 Bubble, Match Officials & Match Management Team – 3 Bubbles, Broadcast Commentators and crew – 3 Bubbles.”
“All franchise team members must quarantine in their hotel room for 6 full days before entering the bubble. Upon arrival and before commencing any group training activities, all team members who will be included in the bubble will follow the below mentioned COVID-19 RT-PCR testing plan. A nasopharyngeal swab will be taken for testing. Test reports are available within 8-12 hours after sample collection,” states the health advisory, accessed by ANI.
The board has also laid down strict instructions that everyone in the bubble must travel through dedicated vehicles only and everyone has been asked to follow this guideline to the core.
“During the IPL 2021, members within a bubble must travel only in the dedicated vehicles from a fleet of buses and cars accredited by BCCI, which will be sanitised regularly. The drivers of all such vehicles will also be in the respective bubbles, tested regularly for COVID-19, and undergo temperature screening,” states the advisory.
Just like last year, the BCCI has given go-ahead for bubble-to-bubble transfer hence the players coming from the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), will be able to enter the IPL bubble straight away.
“Players and team support staff coming directly from the bubble created for the England vs India series, Sri Lanka vs South Africa series and the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) may be permitted to join the franchise squad without serving the mandatory quarantine period, provided they satisfy the below-mentioned criteria. Commentators and broadcast crew who are working on the above three series’ can also avail bubble to bubble transfers provided they satisfy the criteria,” states the advisory.
As for media and fans, the advisory says: “The general public including media persons will not have access to the bubble facilities as well as stadiums for any activities. In addition, each agency and venue involved must risk assess their environment and associated processes as they ordinarily would.”
The Doping Control Personnel (DCP) will also follow the same social distancing and testing protocols as followed by the franchise teams, before and after arrival in the UAE. DCP will also be covered under the Bio-Secure Environments protocols and a separate Bio-Secure bubble will be created for them.
Mumbai Indians will lock horns with CSK on September 19 to resume IPL 2021. The final game of the league stage will be played between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals on October 8.

Overseas Tourists On Thai Island Of Phuket Roam Freely

Overseas tourists for the first time in more than a year were able to roam free without quarantine on Thailand’s island Phuket, as Thailand launched a special programme for vaccinated visitors to the island.

Newly arrived overseas tourists on Thailand’s island of Phuket were able to roam free without quarantine on Friday for the first time in more than a year, as Thailand launched a special programme for vaccinated visitors to the island.

Tourists swam in hotel pools and walked along Phuket’s postcard-perfect beaches after receiving a COVID-19 test result within 24 hours of arrival.

“This is the perfect place to just relax and clean our minds, our heads, after a long time,” said Sigal Baram, lying by the pool, who was visiting from Israel with her husband and friends. The group was among the first to arrive in the country.

The ‘Phuket Sandbox’ initiative allows free movement on the island for fully vaccinated tourists, with no quarantine required, although masks are required in most public places.

While five-star hotels and restaurants welcomed back tourists, local street vendors said they were not benefiting from the plan, because tourists frequent mostly large hotels.

“There is no way street vendors will get the money from overseas tourists… it will go to hotels and restaurants instead,” said Yupin Papor, a massage therapist who lost her job during the pandemic and became a street vendor selling food on the beach.

Thailand lost about $50 billion in tourism revenue last year, when foreign arrivals plunged 83%.

Phuket was hit particularly hard by job losses and business closures.

“I see the shops closed. It’s a big difference to me from before,” said Omar Alraeesi from United Arab Emirates, who comes to Phuket every year.

Millions of people visited Phuket every year before the pandemic and the government and tourism industry hope the reopening will help save its battered economy.

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