The new president of the Pattaya Business & Tourism Administration suggested the government should spend less time devising new catchphrases and schemes to reopen Thailand and just vaccinate the public faster.
Boonanan Pattanasin said March 24 the latest scheme from the Tourism and Sports Ministry – a “sandbox” for foreign tourists to visit five popular provinces without enduring quarantine – would do more harm than good for Pattaya. The best thing the government can do is put coronavirus vaccines in people’s arms much faster than it’s doing.
The ”sandbox” – similar to the earlier “travel bubble” idea that went nowhere – would allow vaccinated foreigners to travel to Chonburi, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi and Surat Thani without needing to spend one or two weeks in quarantine.
But, for that plan to work, 70 percent of Thais in each province would have to be vaccinated, something that seems unlikely given the government’s snail-paced vaccination campaign, Boonanan said.
While some countries are vaccinating as many as two million people a day, Thailand has vaccinated less than 100,000 this month. It doesn’t expect to vaccinate half the country until the end of the year.
Thailand plans to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine locally from June, which would include 61 million doses it plans to use for mass immunization for half the country by December.
So far, Siam Bioscience has manufactured five batches of AstraZeneca vaccine, officials said on March 19. They have been sent to labs in the United States for safety certification, which is required before mass production can begin in May or June.
Officials expect 26 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine will be available from June to August and another 35 million in September-December.
Currently, the government is using only the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine from Sinovac Biotech. Widely believed to be an inferior drug with dubious testing, CoronaVac has been shown to be only 50 percent effective in Brazil, although results from a trial in Turkey came in at 83 percent effective, down from 91 percent in initial Turkish trial-test results.
Boonanan said if the government cannot vaccinate 70 percent of Pattaya – the amount widely believed, but unproven, to create “herd immunity” in the population – then Thais will avoid the area out of fear of catching the virus from vaccinated tourists, although there is no evidence to show that it’s even possible.
That will undo all the hard work tourism officials and the government have done over the past year to boost domestic tourism in Pattaya and other resort provinces, Boonanan said.
The only way to restore foreign tourism without blowing a hole in domestic travel is to vaccinate people, he said.