Thai Tourism Reopening Plan and Latest COVID-19 Outbreak

The growing COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand, which originated in nightlife venues in Bangkok and adjacent areas, threatens to undermine the authorities’ plan to recover the nation’s tourism sector.

Local cases related to the latest cluster reached a new daily record on Sunday.

The Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration said that Thailand recorded 967 new infections yesterday, bringing the country’s case toll to 32,600. The number of infections has spiked since the beginning of the year, suggesting that the novel coronavirus spread has not been fully contained in the kingdom.

The third wave of cases threatens the Southeast Asian nation amid government efforts to boost the tourism industry, specifically local travel.

Jeremy Lim, Director of the Leadership Institute for Global Health Transformation at the National University of Singapore, said: “The outbreak is worrying and could derail Thailand’s plan” to resume tourism activities more broadly.

Thailand had already announced the reopening of Phuket as of July and the easing quarantine restrictions for vaccinated visitors.

Health authorities planned to use the popular tourist destination as a testing ground before expanding similar reopening measures to other prominent areas for the industry, such as Kho Samui.

Lim also spoke about the tourist plans.

“From a public health perspective, it would be a disaster for the world if Thailand pushes through its plans regardless of the ground situation, and Thailand becomes a super spreader site,” Lim said.

In an attempt to encourage tourists to visit the country, the Thai government approved a list of eight COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers for foreign visitors.

The firms’ group included Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Pfizer Inc, whose shots could help travelers shorten the mandatory quarantine period upon arrival in the nation. The move came at a time when tourism has never been more important to Thailand.

The authorities are betting on the foreign visitors’ return to improve the country’s economy, which faces its worst situation in more than two decades.

Before the pandemic, tourism accounted for a fifth of Thailand’s income, but foreign tourist arrivals fell to the lowest level in at least 12 years after the government closed its borders to prevent the spread of the virus.