Raised COVID-19 alert level will not impact overall Thai economy

The private sector is not worried that the latest spread of Omicron infections will have a big impact on the Thai economy.

With the COVID-19 alert level having been raised to Level 4 from 3 last week amid the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant, concerns are circulating about whether tourists will hesitate to travel to Thailand. However, businesses say the latest wave of infections is not causing significant economic losses just yet.

Asst. Prof Dr Thanavath Phonvichai, president of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC), acknowledged that the heightened alert level could prompt hesitation among foreign tourists looking to travel to Thailand. However, he noted that Omicron cases were on the rise globally and it was within expectations that the number of COVID infections would rise after the New Year holiday period. The government has also asked employers to implement Work From Home plans and suspended the Test & Go entry scheme for international travelers in order to mitigate the situation.

Dr Thanavath also said the spread of the Omicron variant should not have significant effects on economic activity, as more foreign tourists are expected to arrive in the latter half of this year rather than during the first half.

Dr Thanavath, who is also the chief advisor to the UTCC’s Center for Economic and Business Forecasting, explained that the economic impact would depend on whether lockdowns are implemented. He noted that in 2020, lockdowns caused 800 billion to 1 trillion baht in damages, while partial lockdowns in 29 provinces last year during the months of July and August caused about 300 to 500 billion baht in economic losses. The UTCC’s economic forecasting center is currently maintaining its GDP growth target for 2022 at 4%, but Dr. Thanavath said growth may be trimmed to 3.5% if the Omicron situation worsens.

Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) Chairman Supant Mongkolsuthree also affirmed that the private sector is not in a panic, but said he wanted to ask that the government avoid implementing some of the disease control measures seen in the past, especially lockdowns. He said he believed the measures were too draconian and affected too many businesses. He also said he did not believe the Omicron variant would cause as much harm as the previous Delta variant, despite being more transmissible. (NNT)