Thailand experiences the largest day of infections so far as the government announces it is preparing a vaccination programme with contact facilities and communications for foreigners to include them in the rollout. In the meantime, the Moderna vaccine will not be available in Thailand until October as the Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul confirms that it will be subject to import tax similar to all other vaccine imports.
Thai officials have announced that a new app called ‘Mor Prompt’ for foreigners to register for vaccination is in development as the government on Monday again reassured expats in the kingdom that they are to be included in the country’s vaccination drive. It comes as Monday saw 9,635 infections, a daily record as the province of Buriram on Friday made cooperation and compliance with the province’s vaccine rollout mandatory with those ignoring public health instructions facing a severe fine and up to 2 years in prison.
Thai authorities again issued a statement on Monday to assure foreigners living in the kingdom that they will be part of the country’s vaccination programme which is currently being ramped up and which will kick off on a broader basis from June.
Currently, officials are busy administering vaccines as a virus management strategy to hard-hit communities in Bangkok which is increasingly becoming the epicentre of the struggle against the third wave which saw a record number of infections announced by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok on Monday at 9,635 cases with 25 new deaths.
Surge announced on Monday linked to outbreak now rampant in the overcrowded Thai prison system
71% of these figures came as a result of testing within the prison population where the disease is running riot with high infections being reported in Bangkok and Chiang Mai prisons. Thai prisons are notoriously overcrowded despite recent initiatives to alleviate the situation.
18 of the deaths on Monday were also in Bangkok where Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration explained that authorities are battling up to 20 different clusters of infection throughout the city.
This includes a building site in central Bangkok run by Italian Thai Development Plc near Lak Si which has been sealed off by authorities with facilities put in place for workers.
New app to be called ‘Mor Prompt’ while foreigners will also be welcomed at walk-in facilities
The announcement by the Government PR Bureau on Monday revealed a new app for foreigners called ‘Mor Prompt’ as opposed to the current ‘Mor Prom’ version, which is being developed so that expats can register for vaccination.
Officials explained that this online app is currently in ‘development’.
It is understood the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is negotiating access for the expat community with officials at the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and the Ministry of Public Health.
The announcement also confirmed that foreigners will be welcomed at all walk-in vaccination centres and facilities which are currently being organised throughout the kingdom.
Commercial option using Moderna not here until October with a minor spat over government taxes on the importation of the vaccine
A plan to make vaccines available on a commercial basis through private hospitals now looks like it will only be available in October when supplies of the highly effective and regarded Moderna vaccine are due to arrive in Thailand.
The vaccine became the fourth jab to be approved for use in Thailand by the Food and Drug Administration last week for emergency use.
It has now been confirmed by a source at the Private Hospital Association (PHA) that between 5 to 6 million doses of the vaccine will arrive here at that time.
Minister defends import taxes on vaccine
The plans were to offer the vaccine at a price of ฿3,000 to ฿3,500 per person including two doses, VAT and insurance although some confusion was created with recent reports when the Ministry of Public Health suggested the vaccine could be subject to a government tax.
In fact, the Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul defended the tax which is believed to apply to all imported vaccines at 14% of the cost as normal.
‘These are the normal fees for importing vaccines,’ the minister explained. ‘It includes delivery and quality check and other taxes which have to be paid and there is no profit being made out of it.’
The minister has also announced that after July, Thailand will receive between ten and twenty million doses of the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine.
Buriram lays down the law on vaccine drive
The rising urgency of vaccination for foreigners in Thailand was highlighted over the weekend when Buriram province announced it had amended the law using its provincial powers which have made it illegal to refuse or not comply with the province’s vaccination process which is now being deemed a public health measure.
This was confirmed by Governor Thatchakorn Hatathathayakul after a key meeting on Friday last.
All adults aged 18 and above must present themselves for vaccination or face prosecution under the Emergency Decree including a jail term of up to 2 years and a fine of ฿40,000 for failing to cooperate.
All residents of the province must register or make themselves known by the end of May.
It is not known whether the order or regulation applies to foreigners who are being advised by officials, at this point, to wait until facilities and arrangements are in place for them to join the country’s badly needed vaccine drive.
Government adopting a pragmatic approach to lockdown measures as need to refloat the economy and avoid economic damage rises
In the meantime, the government is adopting a more flexible approach to this far more challenging situation when compared to last year with a reluctance to impose stringent lockdown measures with plans even being considered to reopen business and push ahead with the country’s foreign tourism reopening on the basis that vaccines are the ultimate solution.
The economic imperative is becoming stronger with fears that the country could be facing a credit crunch in the third quarter of the year as the government’s finances have tightened and liquidity in the financial system has deteriorated.
However, the Bank of Thailand, on Monday, moved to assure the public that the banking system was strong enough to withstand the ‘uncertainty’ right now.
Thailand’s borders with India remain closed as the Indian variant poses the biggest threat to the government’s crisis management plan
In the meantime, Thailand’s borders remain closed to India where a variant of the vaccine reported by UK authorities to be 50% more infectious than the British variant that has wreaked havoc since April in Thailand has led to devastation on the subcontinent with UK authorities now targeting the younger population for vaccination in its already successful campaign to avoid a reversal of the success seen there.
The arrival of the Indian variant in Thailand, right now, would make the already difficult crisis management challenge faced by the government of Prayut Chan ocha far more difficult.
The outcome in the UK is what Thai authorities would like to replicate in this kingdom while pushing still to reopen the revenue and cash-generating foreign tourism industry as it fights a deadly struggle with the disease in the capital city where one district test in recent days showed a potential 10% infection rate.