Authorities in Thailand have had to postpone their plans to re-open Bangkok and some other major cities to foreign arrivals until November. The rationale behind this decision is the fact that the vaccination rates have not reached the targets previously set.
According to Reuters, officials had announced in September that they were ready to welcome vaccinated tourists without quarantine to major cities like Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya and Chiang Mai in October to revive the country’s crucial tourism sector. But the plans had to be postponed.
“Cities we’ve targeted have not reached 70% vaccination rates and so we have to push out the date to November,” Yuthasak Supasorn, the Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand told Reuters.
The government had designed the Phuket Sandbox program, a plan aiming to see fully vaccinated tourists being allowed to travel to Thailand without quarantining provided they stay in Phuket (and Phang-Nga, Surat Thani or Krabi) for at least seven days before traveling to other parts of the country. So far, the Phuket Sandbox program has only been launched on the islands of Samui and Phuket. In November, however, it is expected to be expanded to destinations such as: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chon Buri, Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has restated the country’s commitment to continue with the government’s vaccination efforts. Despite being a production center for the AstraZeneca vaccine, Thailand’s vaccine rollout has lagged behind.
According to government data, 44% of residents in Bangkok have received two doses, while Thailand has vaccinated 22% of the estimated 72 million people living in the country, Reuters reports. At least 98% of Thailand’s more than 1.5 million coronavirus infections and 15,753 deaths happened since April this year due to an outbreak driven by the Delta variant.
Thailand welcomed 40 million arrivals in 2019, who accounted for more than a fifth of gross domestic product. This year, however, the expected number of visitors is one million.