BANGKOK, 5 April 2021:
Thailand will prioritise anti-Covid-19 vaccination for Phuket Island residents before the popular tourist destination reopens for foreigners from July.
The pilot project – to inoculate more than 525,000 Phuket residents – aims to create a bubble within the country to revive the tourism sector hit hard by the pandemic.
The sector accounted for 12-20% of Thailand’s GDP before the country shut its borders in March 2020.
Regional authorities expect to administer vaccine doses at a rate of 7,000 per day and cover 70% of the population in three months.
The massive immunisation campaign kicked off last Thursday using the vaccine produced by Chinese pharma company Sinovac Biotech to inoculate health workers, high-risk groups and personnel aged between 18 and 60 who directly interact with the public or tourists.
Authorities said people above 60 would receive jabs from June onwards with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Thai authorities had announced in late March that the island would allow the foreign tourists against Covid-19 without the requirement of observing quarantine from July 1.
The rapid pace of vaccination in Phuket is in contrast with the timeline in the rest of the country, where mass immunisation is expected to begin only in June.
The strict 14-day quarantine for all people arriving from abroad is one of the several measures that have helped Thailand avoid a high number of coronavirus infections.
Bangkok is now seeking to gradually reopen the tourism sector that is key for the local economy.
The government reduced quarantine days for pre-vaccinated travellers from 14 days to seven from April. All such restrictions would be over from October.
Thailand has so far registered 29,130 Covid-19 infections and 95 deaths among a population of nearly 70 million.