Thailand’s tourism recovery depends on the government’s ability to distribute vaccines widely to create herd immunity, says a government think tank.
Danucha Pichayanan, secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), said the government should formulate a better vaccine distribution plan focused on using human resources to inoculate people working in the tourism industry to build the confidence of foreign visitors, reports the Bangkok Post.
“The recovery of the tourism industry depends on the government’s capability to arrange vaccine distribution,” he said.
“The faster the government distributes vaccines, the better the country’s tourism industry recovery as well as Thailand’s economic growth.”
According to Mr Danucha, the government is being urged to prioritise vaccinations at key tourism destinations and manufacturing production bases, in addition to its public health concerns.
The agency expects the government to be able to provide vaccinations in the fourth quarter this year, saying this distribution should allow easing of the strict quarantine requirements for foreign visitors.
The government may allow tourists to arrive from countries that have effective COVID-19 vaccinations, said Mr Danucha.
As of Feb 15, the agency downgraded its forecast for foreign tourist arrivals this year to 3.2 million from 5mn, made on Nov 16 last year.
The downgrade stems largely from the second wave of COVID-19 infections in Thailand, the unabated spread in many other countries and uncertainty over vaccine quality.
“The new wave of COVID-19 spreading in countries such as Italy, Finland, Brazil, Turkey, Iran and our neighbouring nations like Malaysia and Indonesia will definitely freeze the recovery of Thailand’s tourism industry,” he said.
Mr Danucha said the agency expects new infections in Thailand will reach an apex in February, with the government projected to get infections under control by March.
The NESDC also expects developed countries to distribute vaccines to cover at least 50% of their populations in the first half this year, rising to 75% for the whole year.
Developing countries are projected to distribute vaccines to cover 50% of their populations this year, and 75% of their populations within the first half of 2022.
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Monday the first COVID-19 vaccine shots in Thailand should be distributed by the end of this month, with the first 200,000 doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine scheduled to arrive on Feb 24.
China’s Sinovac Biotech confirmed that production of 200,000 doses for Thailand are ready for shipment on Feb 20, said Mr Anutin.