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Vaccine race is on to open country

A political tug of war may be the key factor determining when Bangkok is allowed to reopen to fully vaccinated tourists.

Bangkok is scheduled to reopen on Oct 15, while Chon Buri (Pattaya), Phetchaburi (Cha-am), Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin) and Chiang Mai (Mueang, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng and Doi Tao) are slated for Oct 1. The proposal is expected to be submitted at the next Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) meeting on Sept 24, followed by the Center for Economic Situation Administration on Sept 29.

On Wednesday, the Tourism and Sports Ministry and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) held a meeting with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) and Bangkok governor Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang.

Directly after this meeting Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn insisted the Bangkok reopening date be set for Oct 15.

However, on Friday the Bangkok governor asserted the city should not be reopened until residents have a 70% vaccination rate in order to ensure sufficient immunity.

According to a source who requested anonymity, during the meeting on Wednesday Pol Gen Aswin said both he and Bangkok residents agree with the reopening plan, but the city might have to wait until Oct 22-24 for 70% of residents receive their second jabs.

Pol Gen Aswin raised the possibility of accelerating the interval for the second shot to open the city earlier than Oct 22, which the BMA’s health authority representative said was possible if the BMA can procure more vaccines through the support of the Tourism and Sports Ministry.

The reopening proposal requires approval from the CCSA to obtain more vaccines to reach the 70% threshold for the metropolitan area, said TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn.

Mr Yuthasak said the TAT will have a discussion with tourism-related operators on Sept 22 to prepare for Bangkok’s reopening.

Thanet Supornsahasrungsi, acting president of the Chon Buri Tourism Council, said Bangkok’s reopening could support tourism in Pattaya through more direct flights.

Most tourists enter the country via Suvarnabhumi airport. Asian tourists normally combine visits to Bangkok and nearby areas such as Pattaya, so reopening the capital could be a complement for other destinations, he said.

“Reopening more areas definitely benefits the tourism industry as it shows the readiness of the country to welcome back tourists,” Mr Thanet said.

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