Minister of Tourism and Sports Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has said it will take 900,000 doses to vaccinate 70% of the population of Phuket to allow foreign tourists unfettered access by July 1st. It comes as the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has set a target date of October 1st to fully reopen the whole country again to normal, unrestricted tourism.
Thailand’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration has confirmed it is advancing plans to reopen the country to foreign tourists without quarantine before October 1st while the tourism minister has even held out the prospect that Phuket may be welcoming mass foreign tourism again by July 1st.
The Minister of Tourism and Sports has said parts of Thailand including Phuket could be fully reopened to foreign tourists without quarantine as early as July this year.
The minster is proposing this to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) which is due to convene a meeting of all relevant ministries on March 19th to discuss what was proposed as a full reopening of the kingdom to foreign tourism by spokesperson Dr Apisamai Srisangson on Wednesday.
‘Sandbox’ plan for an early opening of 3 key provinces
The minister’s ‘sandbox’ plan is based on inoculating 70% of the population in three key provinces that together generated 20% of Thailand’s annual revenue for tourism in 2019 or ฿600 billion. These are Phuket, Phang-nga and Krabi.
‘According to the timeline set by the government, foreigners will be allowed to travel to Thailand without quarantine. But we want to do it faster. We hope this can be done starting with Phuket in July under the condition that at least 70% of its population is vaccinated, a requirement of 900,000 doses for 450,000 people,’ said Minister Phiphat on Wednesday.
Wider reopening of the whole country to foreign tourists without conditions by October 1st
The Minister was speaking after the comments made by Dr Apisamai regarding wider reopening by October 1st.
The spokesperson emphasised a key goal the government has in mind was the protection of public sector operations from the threat of the virus with the vaccine rollout and to allow conditions to return to normal.
She said any reopening would also depend on the co-operation of the public in keeping the guard up against the Covid-19 virus and the cooperation of private business concerns.
Key meeting scheduled for March 19th
She confirmed the key meeting on March 19th next which will receive input from a range of ministries concerned.
‘The proposal will be discussed at a meeting of the CCSA’s main committee on March 19.’
It comes as the government is encouraged by dropping numbers of infections in the hardest-hit province of Samut Sakhon where 70,000 extra vaccine doses are now being sent.
Success of vaccines in Samut Sakhon at reducing infections has boosted confidence among officials
It is understood the impact of the vaccination process in this province has spurred confidence in officials to move quickly to reopen the country.
The success of vaccine programmes in other countries, notably key markets for Thailand as a tourism destination, is also raising prospects of a return to normality before the end of the year.
The spokesperson said the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration had spoken to the Deputy Governor of Samut Sakhon, Thiraphat Khashmat, who had told them that infection numbers are dropping steadily while there have been no serious side effects reported from the vaccines being rolled out.
Samut Sakhon is a province to which the government has given priority since a flare-up before the end of last year when it became the power centre of the second wave of virus infection in Thailand.
Time for key ministries to work out the details of lifting the current regime of restricted entry
Plans to reopen Thailand to foreign tourists were also addressed by Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, the official spokesperson for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.
He told reporters he was concerned that it will take time for ministries involved in the decision-making process to clarify the position including the details involved in the proposal which will mean a dismantling of the current regime.
This process will begin at the March 19th meeting.
It comes as Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha and other cabinet ministers will, this week, be administered with the AstraZeneca vaccine, doses for which are expected to be approved shortly by the Department of Medical Sciences.