Private sector in Phuket wants quick, self-funded vaccinations so it can reopen

This aerial photo taken on September 30, 2020 shows a man walking along an unusually-quiet Karon beach in Phuket, which has seen a lack of tourists due to ongoing restrictions relating to the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

The private sector on Phuket has joined forces to push for a self-funded vaccination program, to inoculate up to 70% of its population, in the hope that the resort island will be able to reopen to foreign tourists on October 1st, which is the start of the annual tourism season.

Representatives of tourism-related businesses, which include the Phuket Chamber of Commerce, the Provincial Tourism Industry Council, the Provincial Industrial Council, the Southern Thai Hotels Association, the Tour Guides Association, international schools and the Private Schools Association met recently to discuss the tourism-related situation during the pandemic and the prospects of vaccines as a key element in reviving the devastated economy.

Poommikit Raktae-ngarm, president of Tourism Business Association, said that all the tourism-related businesses agreed that Phuket must reopen on October 1st to foreign tourists who have been vaccinated, otherwise many businesses in Phuket will go bankrupt.

Their only hope are the vaccines, he said, adding that the private sector wants answers from the government to these questions:

Is it OK that vaccinated foreign tourists need not quarantine upon arrival in Thailand, and which vaccines are acceptable?
Regarding the distribution of vaccines, which groups of people in Phuket will get the vaccines first?
Is it possible that local administration organizations in Phuket can procure vaccines with their own funding or for the private sector to secure their own vaccines?

Poommikit said the private sector in Phuket envisages that up to 70% of the population of the island, except those under 18, should receive two doses of vaccine within September, with a one-month period for herd immunity to develop before reopening the island to foreign tourists.

Sarayuth Mallum, president of the Tourism Industry Council, said that private entrepreneurs on Phuket need only two things from the government, namely moral support and policy support, so Phuket can recover from the impacts of the virus and stand on its own feet again.

Kongsak Phupongsakorn, president of the Southern Thai Hotels Association, urged the government to respond quickly to their questions, noting that time is important and cannot be wasted, otherwise all the financially-troubled hotels and properties on the island will be scooped up at fire-sale prices by foreign investors.

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