PM aims to fully reopen Thailand in 4 months
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared today (Wednesday) that Thailand will fully reopen its borders within four months, as the country is to begin welcoming fully vaccinated foreign tourists, starting with the southern resort island of Phuket on July 1st.
“The time has now come for us to look ahead and set the date on which we can fully open our country and start welcoming visitors, because it is one of the important ways by which we can start to reduce the enormous suffering of people who have lost their incomes,” said Mr. Prayut in a televised address.
“I know this decision comes with some risks because, when we open the country, there will be an increase in infections, no matter how good our precautions may be, but I think, when we consider the economic needs of people, the time has now come for us to take a calculated risk. The priorities for our country must now advance to the next level,” he added.
The prime minister has instructed all government units, including provincial governors, to make all preparations to meet the four-month goal.
He added that 105.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been ordered for this year, higher than the initial goal of 100 million, to inoculate 70% of the population and build herd immunity, with another goal of acquiring 50 million more doses for next year.
Calling the planned mass vaccine rollout a “truly historic mission”, Mr. Prayut laid out the short-term plan of giving as many people as possible their first dose, with a long-term plan of having the vaccine locally produced.
The prime minister also acknowledged hurdles in the rollout, since mass inoculations began last Monday, saying “something may need to be adjusted to meet new challenges, as they arise in this constantly evolving situation, and there may also be certain errors or inconveniences, and I ask for everyone’s understanding.”
Thailand’s sizeable tourism industry accounted for about 20% of the country’s pre-pandemic GDP. Several tourist attractions and hospitality businesses have, however, closed down, due to the lack of foreign tourists since March 2020.
The “Phuket Sandbox” project will pave the way for reopening, with fully vaccinated foreign tourists arriving in Phuket and being required to stay there for a period, without a quarantine, before being allowed to travel elsewhere in the country.