Thailand’s tourism minister has said that Phuket’s “SandBox” zero quarantine reopening plans need a major revamp due to the recent spike in new daily covid-19 infections.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said his ministry plans to meet with all related agencies to discuss the reopening plan, previously set for July 1st, 2021. He said the key determinant is insufficient vaccines for pilot destinations.
Prior to the third wave, Phuket had secured more than 100,000 doses and was poised to get additional doses of around 930,000 for 70% of the population to achieve herd immunity by June.
However the recent spikes in Covid-19 cases throughout Thailand has interrupted that Phuket’s vaccination plans. The Bangkok Post reports that a limited number of vaccines must also be distributed to other provinces, which will make it difficult to allocate a large lot of Covid-19 vaccine to Phuket.
“We are all concerned about the reopening timeline. We still need to discuss the covid-19 vaccine administration plan. If the herd immunity goal cannot be achieved, we may have to consider opening only certain areas in Phuket,” he said.
Even more, to continue with the same plan, even with restricted zones, will not be easy as long as the country still has increasing new daily infections, Mr Phiphat said.
Travel bubble negotiations
Most importantly, we still have to hear from other countries that we already started travel bubble negotiations with about their confidence regarding the same timeline. The outlook for tourism receipts this year might need to be adjusted again as domestic tourism was affected by the outbreak, said Mr Phiphat.
He said the meeting next week should offer a clearer scenario, with the private sector shedding light on the setting after the Songkran holidays this week.
Hotels in the North reported cancellations of more than 70% as a virus epicentre was located in Chiang Mai.
Prior the pandemic, the province was a top destination to celebrate Thai New Year.
Mr Phiphat, also in quarantine after having close contact with Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, who was diagnosed with Covid-19, said he will be ready to take a third swab test next week when he completes his isolation period. He plans to hold a meeting at the ministry as soon as the results are clear.
Source: Bangkok Post