BANGKOK (June 17): Prime Minister Prayuth Chan o-cha on Wednesday announced Thailand will reopen to fully vaccinated visitors by mid-October to revive its economy impacted severely by the COVID-19 outbreak.
He said fully inoculated foreign visitors and Thais returning home will be able to enter the kingdom without quarantine or other inconvenient restrictions.
Prayuth admitted the decision has some risks as there would be an increase in infections.
“I think when we take into consideration the economic needs of the people, the time has now come for us to take that calculated risk and set a date for when we can fully open our country and start receiving visitors.
“Re-opening the country is one of the important ways to start reducing the enormous suffering of people who have lost their ability to earn an income.
“I am, therefore, setting a goal for us to be able to declare Thailand fully open within 120 days from today (Wednesday), and for tourism centers that are ready, to do so even faster,” he said in a televised speech on Wednesday night.
He added that places of work and business as well as domestic travel should be able to operate normally and without blanket restrictions.
“The only exception to these guidelines will be if a truly serious situation develops or seems likely to develop, and we will look at those situations on a case-by-case basis,” he added.
Since April last year, Thailand imposed strict entry requirements and quarantine measures to control the pandemic. Yet in mid-December last year it witnessed the second wave outbreak and since April this year the kingdom has been struglling to contain the third wave of the outbreak.
The travel curbs saw tourist arrivals in the kingdom plummet to 6.7 million last year compared to nearly 40 million visitors in 2019.
Prayuth said the resort island of Phuket which has vaccinated most of its local population will start receiving vaccinated visitors from July 1.
Under “Phuket Sandbox”, visitors entering Phuket will skip the 14-day quarantine however, they must stay in the island for 14 days before travelling to other provinces in the kingdom.
“I have accelerated this matter for it to be considered and decided at next week’s Cabinet meeting,” he said.
On vaccination, Prayuth said the government has signed reservation and supply contracts for 105.5 million doses of vaccine to be delivered this year putting the country ahead of the target for vaccine supplies this year.
“We will continue to seek additional supplies of vaccines for next year.
“The country plans to administer an average of around 10 million shots a month from July so by early October almost 50 million people will have had at least their first shots administered,” he said.
As of June 15, a total of 6.78 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine – either Sinovac or AstraZeneca in the kingdom including 1.83 million people completing the two-dose COVID-19 vaccination.
Thailand aims to vaccinate 70 per cent of its nearly 70 million population to achieve herd immunity.
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