Thai Government: Covid Cases Must Reach Zero Before Phuket Reopening, 300 Baht Foreigner Arrival Fee On Track

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The Thai Goverment has declared that the reopening of Phuket to foreign tourists under the so called Sandbox model this summer is dependent on Covid-19 cass being completely eliminated.

As the Minister for Tourism & Sports said, the number of Covid-19 cases in Phuket must reach zero before it reopens to foreign tourists on July 1 which is a complete fantasy at this point.

Originally the Thai Government and Tourism Authority of Thailand planned for Phuket to be the pilot project for a reopening of tourism in the country effective July 1st but that was before Thailand was hit with it’s latest and most severe wave of infections.

As the Bangkok Post reports today this reopening will not go ahead until the number of infections has reached ZERO – a fantasy given the current state of affairs in the Kingdom.

The number of Covid-19 cases in Phuket must reach zero before it reopens to foreign tourists on July 1 as scheduled under the sandbox scheme, says Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister.

The government is also planning to initiate a plan to collect 300 baht from foreign tourists starting next January to set up a tourism fund for emergency use.

“We have to speed up inoculations, particularly in Bangkok, to achieve herd immunity by the fourth quarter. The number of daily infections should be below 200 by the end of this month to restore international tourism confidence,” said Mr Phiphat.

Once the spread is under control, the government will resume travel bubble discussions with Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos and Malaysia, he said.

No country wants to engage in a travel bubble discussion with Thailand when there is still a high rate of infection, said Mr Phiphat.

The Phuket sandbox — a reopening scheme for vaccinated tourists without quarantine — requires higher standards, he said. The government anticipates zero cases on the island before July 1.

If 70% of residents on Phuket are vaccinated but new cases still emerge, the ministry will discuss with the Public Health Ministry about further action, said Mr Phiphat.

He said the ministry is maintaining its goal of 3-4 million international tourists arrivals, assuming the tourism sandbox in pilot areas carries on as planned. …

After the vaccination drive began in Phuket last month, only 22% of the population have received a second jab. The province expects to receive 200,000 doses per month in both May and June. …

These statements show at least in part how completely delusional the responsible individuals are when it comes to preparing the economy for the the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Under no possible scenario will Thailand achieve 3-4 Million international tourist arrivals in this calendar year, especially under a zero Covid requirement on the Thai side.

The situation right now is that Covid is rampant in Thailand, even with very limited testing there are ~ 2000 cases diagnosed daily. Within four weeks Thailand has jumped to the 98th rank worldwide on the Worldometer scale and while that isn’t very high up one has to consider that this is the first real emergence of Covid-19 in Thailand since the beginning of the pandemic 15 months ago.

At the same time the number of inoculations with Covid-19 vaccines moves at a snails pace.

Here a statistic from yesterday outlining the exact number of vaccinations in Thailand:

Since February 28th the number of people who have received the first dose is for the Chinese Sinovac 1,085,046 and Astra Zeneca 82,673. For the second dose or what is commonly considered “fully vaccinated” the numbers are 434,101 for Sinovac 434,101 & a whole 13 (yes, thirteen!) for AstraZeneca.

So far neither the government or private hospitals are administering Pfizer BioNTech or Johnson&Johnson vaccines.

In spite of their disastrous Covid preparation over the last year and a decimated tourism industry the government is now pushing ahead with their plan to collect 300 baht from arriving foreign tourists starting next January to set up a tourism fund for emergency use.

I seriously wonder what the emergency use will be. This is now the third or fourth time in the last few years this proposal was on the table but so far nobody was able to provide a suitable path for the logistics. The basis for this fee is also highly questionable as I outlined in previous articles about this topic where it was said such a fee would cover unpaid medical debt or even come with a health insurance for foreign tourists (good luck using that).

Right now tourists require a health insurance with at least US$100,000 coverage to enter Thailand so the basis for such a fee would disappear entirely. I don’t see this insurance requirement to disappear anytime soon.

Last week Thailand also scrapped the reduced quarantine requirements for arrivals and universally put it back to two weeks, irrespective of vaccination status.

Thailand Scraps Reduced Quarantine For Incoming Travelers, Resets Isolation Rule Back To 14 Days Effective May 6, 2021

In combination with the ongoing “lockdown light” that is currently in effect this doesn’t bode well for the 2021 tourism season, much to the detriment of the employees and operators in Thailand’s tourism sector.

Conclusion

Based on this update of Thailand pursuing a zero Covid policy before opening the country up the chances for Phuket or any other destination in the country to be available for quarantine free arrivals are dwindling to zero as well for the better part of 2021. I’m not surprised about this development.

At the same time these 300 Baht fee discussions that pop up every six months are simply toxic as far as the signaling value is concerned. It’s already unattractive enough to jump through all the hoops in order to visit Thailand, at least for now. The task should be to make the destination attractive again, streamline the arrivals process and most of all do it safely. For as long as the arrival quarantine is back to two weeks the entire discussion about tourism is lead ad absurdum.

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