Heavy hand of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) reintroduces 14 day quarantine period for all visitors after May 6th as the campaign to reopen Thailand to foreign tourism in 2021 withers on the vine with lives lost and more people being treated for serious Covid-19 conditions and a 147% increase in patients on ventilators in 6 days.
The newly empowered Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha has moved to reinstate the mandatory 14 day quarantine period for all foreigners entering Thailand after May 6th as plans to reopen the kingdom to foreign tourism look like they are receding with a senior Bank of Thailand official now suggesting GDP growth projections this year will have to be reined in and that it will take up to 5 years for the foreign tourism sector to recover as another wave of calamity hits the country forcing the government on the defensive to save lives.
Within 48 hours of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha being given sweeping powers to combat the Covid-19 virus and with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) back in control of efforts to defeat the disease, there has been bad news for foreigners planning on travelling to Thailand even under the current restrictive rules which have throttled visitor and foreign tourist numbers since April 2020.
Mandatory 14-day quarantine within the alternative quarantine scheme for visitors has been brought back up to 14 days for both vaccinated tourists and non vaccinated tourists alike as the public health hawks take firm control over government policy.
Vaccination status now irrelevant as 14 day quarantine is back with visitors restricted to hotel bedrooms
It means that any visitor entering Thailand under a Certificate of Entry (COE) after May 6th next can now expect to be quarantined for 14 days.
It has also been suggested that the security and administration of all alternative quarantine scheme locations will be tightened meaning all incoming visitors will be required to stay in their hotel bedroom at all times.
Before this, a scaled introduction of reduced quarantine had been in effect with it being gradually reduced to 7 days for vaccinated visitors and by October 1st unrestricted entry was promised for foreign tourists visiting the country with Phuket serving as a test destination from July 1st.
Complete reversal of policy as UK variant from Cambodia has wreaked havoc across the kingdom
It is a complete reversal of policy in just 10 days driven by a surge in infections and deaths from the British variant which it is understood, according to Thai experts such as Dr Yong Poovorawan of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, arrived in Thailand via Cambodia.
This was spread through clusters in the fashionable Thong Lor area of Bangkok by well-heeled Thai party-goers including key officials working with the government.
More people are being put on ventilators
The latest figures from the government, from last Tuesday, show a rising number of people in a serious condition from the disease at 255 with a 147% increase in people on ventilators from April 21st to 27th.
The escalating nature of the third virus wave comes also amid a call on Thursday from six of the main opposition parties for the resignation of General Prayut and his government.
This follows on a call from a doctors’ group last weekend for the resignation of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, which has so far chalked up over 218,500 signatures on the website change.org.
Minister of Tourism warned of this outcome after the third virus wave broke on April 19th last
As recently as April 19th last, the Minister of Tourism and Sports, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn had been warning the relaxation of quarantine rules was in jeopardy as he also admitted that plans to reopen Phuket, the key Thai tourist resort which normally attracts 15 million visitors a year, to vaccinated tourists without quarantine by July 1st would now not go ahead.
‘The plan to reduce the quarantine period for vaccinated tourists from this month and launching the Phuket sandbox on July 1 may not happen if there is opposition,’ he said then.
20% of the population of Phuket were vaccinated
There is no firm decision on this initiative yet as it appears that up to 20% of the population of Phuket have been vaccinated as priority had been given to the reopening project by the government when it approved the plan in principle but subject to the vaccine rollout being a success at achieving a 70% herd immunity level and approval from the local population.
However, the minister has indicated that the limited amount of vaccines in the country to deal with the virulent third wave has directly impacted the plan to vaccinate the local population of Phuket by July 1st.
The plan would have required 930,000 doses.
As of this week, only enough vaccines to inoculate 2% of the population had been delivered into Thailand, most of those being the Chinese Sinovac jab.
The minister then had indicated that if the plan proceeded, it would be aimed at European and US tourists with the possibility of Chinese visitors arriving after October 1st subject to approval by authorities in Beijing.
Tourism official: ‘The situation changes all the time’
The Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in Phuket, Nanthasiri Ronnasiri, summed up the current situation when she recently spoke with the New York Times on the plan.
‘If you ask me how optimistic I am, I cannot say,’ she said. ‘The situation changes all the time.’
All eyes in Thailand have now focused again on the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and Government House in Bangkok where the Prime Minister has taken direct control.
New vaccination drive outlined in which healthy people under 60 will only begin getting vaccinated after August 1st with July registration
Following a high-level meeting between the PM and key business organisations such as the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Thai Industries and the Thai Bankers’ Association on Wednesday, a plan emerged for a cooperative effort between the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and the private groups to launch the country’s vaccination programme.
However, under the ‘ABCD’ programme outlined, the vaccination of the active adult population under 60 years of age would only begin in August with registration details being taken in July.
Best case scenario according to the Bank of Thailand is for 7% of visitor volume from 2019, this spells hardship for millions dependent on tourism income
The Bank of Thailand, in its latest update, has lowered its projection for the amount of foreign tourists expected to arrive in Thailand by the end of 2021 to 3 million or a loss of 93% on 2019 figures or nearly ฿1.9 trillion in financial losses or 12%, in net GDP terms.
Following Monday’s endorsement of the Thai economy from top Japanese rating firm, Japan Credit Rating Agency (JCR), which made clear the resilient nature of the nation’s economy due to the country’s robust foreign reserves and financial system, it is clear that the impact and hardship of the virus are being felt disproportionately by the less well off and small business sector including Thailand’s grey economy which some say accounts for 50% of ‘real’ economic’ activity which is unrecorded.
Top bank officials say it will be 5 years before the foreign tourism industry is back to normal, even the 7% projected for this year is doubtful
Some analysts are now suggesting it will be up to five years before foreign tourism fully recovers, given internal and external factors, to reach anything like the level it did in 2019, if at all.
Last Saturday, Sakkapop Panyanukul, a senior director at the Bank of Thailand told an online audience that even the scaled-down figure of 3 million tourists or 7% of the volume seen in 2019 would be difficult to meet this year.
He said a figure of 50% of 2019 levels or 20 million visitors would be a satisfactory outcome for 2022 while predicting it would be at least four to five years before the industry was back on its feet.
‘Given the current outbreak and vaccine efficacy, I must say that assumption is difficult,’ he explained and suggested that current government growth projections would have to be curtailed ‘quite a lot’.