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The government is expected to give the go-ahead today to allow tourists who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to visit Phuket without having to go through the mandatory quarantine period, which will begin in July.
The Centre for Economic Situation Administration (CESA), according to deputy prime minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow, will consider a reopening proposal accepted by business operators on the island today.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will chair the meeting, and the proposal could serve as a model for other provinces that depend on tourism to reopen.
Mr Supattanapong, who is also the energy minister, said that local entrepreneurs and communities have agreed that the island province should reopen to foreign tourists.
These entrepreneurs and communities, he said, are optimistic that Phuket's tourism infrastructure can still handle "quality tourists."
"Foreign tourists have recognized Phuket," Mr Supattanapong said.
"They've banded together and offered to act as a reopening model for major tourist destinations," he said. "To draw quality visitors, the province has flights and hotels.
"We believe the province could reopen before October if the government supports the proposal," the deputy prime minister said.
Previously, provincial authorities and the local private sector devised a reopening strategy, dubbed the Phuket Tourism Sandbox, that would allow inoculated foreign tourists to visit the province beginning July 1, a month earlier than expected.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor, Yuthasak Supasorn, previously reported that the reopening plan would be largely dependent on vaccine allocation to the Andaman Sea island.
Before foreign visitors are allowed in by the reopening date, he said, herd immunity must be achieved by inoculating 70% of the population.
The plan is said to include a vaccine proposal, along with the number of doses needed and an inoculation timeline appropriate for the tourist island's healthy reopening.
Communities are expected to endorse this plan more than last year's Phuket model, according to Mr Yuthasak, since it is more elaborate and capable of ensuring health safety steps.
The sandbox plan calls for at least 466,587 residents on Phuket to receive two doses each. The strategy calls for 933,174 doses to be secured.
To meet the herd immunity target in a timely manner, the first round of inoculations should begin on April 15, followed by the second round on May 15.
Tourists who want to participate in the planned quarantine-free program must display a vaccine certificate, vaccine passport, or an International Air Transport Association (IATA) travel pass, according to the programme.
According to the plan, foreign tourists will still be expected to take a PCR test at the airport and activate the ThailandPlus tracing app while in Phuket.
Phuket's public health leader, Kusak Kukiatkul, announced on Thursday that the island would receive a second batch of 100,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses on Monday, in time for the expected reopening.
Tourism, according to Dr. Kusak, is Phuket's primary source of revenue.
Public health authorities in direct contact with Covid-19 patients, staff in the local service sector, such as hotel, airport, and dock workers, and people with underlying health conditions will be among the first to receive the vaccine.
The second batch of vaccinations will arrive on Monday, and the vaccination program will begin on Thursday, according to Dr. Kusak, who also advised Phuket residents to register at the provincial public health office.
"Don't worry," he said, "because the first round of vaccinations went very well — with very few side effects recorded." "It's comparable to routine vaccines."
He went on to say that if the 100,000 doses can be given to people in Phuket in a month, the number of jabs would be increased during subsequent rounds of vaccination to meet the province's 70 percent immunity target.
In April, the government aims to administer 800,000 doses of China's Sinovac vaccine to 22 provinces throughout the kingdom.
Samut Sakhon, Bangkok, Tak, Pathum Thani, Samut Prakan, and Nonthaburi are in the first tier, while Phuket and Surat Thani, as well as Songkhla, Sa Kaeo, Chiang Rai, Mukdahan, Narathiwat, and Ranong, are in the second and third.