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While there is no definitive date when everyone in Thailand will be vaccinated against Covid-19, officials say they are still planning for foreign tourists to return later this year. The plan to welcome international travelers in the third quarter of 2021 is still on track, Yuthasak Supasorn of the Tourism Authority of Thailand says. The optimistic Yuthasak says that foreign tourists in low-risk countries are looking for holidays and Thailand remains popular. He acknowledges, however, that it is important to take into account the possibility of a vaccine passport scheme and the current mandatory quarantine period.
The Bangkok Post reports that the TAT is planning to discuss the second phase with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration of the national vaccine rollout. Yuthasak says the process could be accelerated by allowing the private sector to purchase vaccines, but he acknowledges that vaccines are currently in short supply around the world. He says that the jabs may also prove too expensive for local administrations and that local officials must remember that they would use state finances to do so considering this move.
He made his comments after operators on the southern island of Phuket expressed dismay at a U-turn by the government to allow vaccines to be purchased by local administrations and the private sector. A plan was proposed by various business groups and the local administration in Phuket to finance the vaccination of 70% of the population of the island, in the hope of creating herd immunity and being able to re-open to foreign visitors from October 1.
After Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that the government could not approve such a move, a letter to the PM, Prayut Chan-o-cha, was written by the groups involved, urging him to reconsider.
Meanwhile, the Thailand Tourism Council's Chamnan Srisawat says that tourism operators need clarity as to when they might be able to re-open the gate to international visitors, which he says is the only path to economic recovery. He pointed out that if the locals are not vaccinated, no foreign visitors will be able to visit Thailand.
"Without vaccinations that will ensure health and safety, tourism will not recover fully. It's more important than any stimulus plan for tourism. In discussions over a vaccine distribution plan, the government must include the private sector.