If Thailand is to reopen itself to international tourism as soon as possible, it is imperative that it develops its own COVID-19 vaccines.
In order to make this possible, the government has earmarked a total budget of THB1 billion for the development and then the eventual production of a local vaccine. This money will come from the emergency budget for 2020, and will be received by the National Vaccine Institute.
This view is echoed by the deputy spokesperson for the Royal Thai Government, Traisuree Taisaranakul.
Ms. Traisuree said that a vaccine is now an essential addition to the country’s arsenal, especially now that it is inching towards a record 90-day absence of locally transmitted cases. It’s also important due to the fact that the government is aiming for a limited reopening of foreign tourism on October 1, starting with Phuket, despite the large number of COVID-19 cases around the world.
Despite its record of handling the coronavirus successfully, the country remains exposed to the risk of a second wave due to the global situation, Ms. Traisuree said.
This move is in line with the government’s COVID-19 vaccine program blueprint that was first announced in April of this year.
This blueprint called for two strategies in obtaining a vaccine.
One strategy is to acquire prototypes for vaccines and related technology from other nations that showed promising results. On the other hand, the government will also invest in getting the country’s experts ready to produce vaccines for whatever eventuality as a long-term strategy.
Since the lockdown that banned international flights in and out of April was imposed in April, Thailand’s tourism-reliant economy has experienced its most significant contraction since the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis.
In a bid to revive the economy and keep affected businesses afloat, the government has both incentivized domestic tourism while slowly easing restrictions on international tourism, one province at a time.
In July, Thailand launched the “We Travel Together” stimulus package that allows Thais to receive refunds from the government for 40% of their travel expenses, with a cap of THB3000. The package aims to achieve 5 million room reservations from local tourists by October 31.
Last week, the government also announced that it was going to reopen Phuket to foreign tourism by October 1. Following the private sector’s “Safe and Sealed” plan, the government will screen tourists coming from cities that are considered safe from COVID-19.
These tourists are required to test negative for COVID-19 at home and bring a medical certificate as proof. They are also required to secure a Fit to Fly certificate, and COVID-19 health insurance.
Upon arrival, they will undergo one more COVID-19 test, and two more at the start and end of the 14-day quarantine, respectively.
After the quarantine, they will be free to visit Phuket’s various destinations, including its nightclubs, night markets, nature reserves, and many others.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakaran is also proposing reopening the Phi Phi islands in the Krabi Province as well as Koh Samui together with Phuket on October 1.
The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration has not yet released official details on the tourist application process.