Thai Tycoons Step In to Speed Up Vaccination for Quick Reopening
(Bloomberg) -- Thailand’s top business groups offered to join the government in a mass rollout of Covid-19 vaccination from June as the Southeast Asian nation grapples with its worst coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha met with representatives of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the Thai Bankers Association and the Tourism Council of Thailand on Wednesday and identified specific roles for the private sector in the rollout that aims to cover 70% of the nation’s population by the end of this year. Billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont’s Charoen Pokphand Group and VGI Pcl are among companies that have agreed to take part in the program, according to a government statement.
Thai owners of malls, commercial real estate and industrial parks will provide spaces for vaccination camps once the country receives more vaccines from June, while other businesses will assist in distribution and logistics, communication with the public and procurement of more doses, the government said.
“With this vaccination plan, we can be confident that the country can reopen next year and that the country should be able to move forward,” Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said after the meeting. A plan to reopen Phuket to fully vaccinated foreign tourists from July remains on track, he said.
Prayuth’s move to enlist the support of the private sector comes amid growing criticism of his handling of the pandemic and vaccine procurement strategy that sought to rely mostly on AstraZeneca Plc’s shots to be locally manufactured by a company with links to Thailand’s monarchy. The six main opposition parties on Wednesday demanded the resignation of Prayuth’s government, saying that it failed in managig the pandemic and its fallout.
Thailand has administered only about 1.3 million doses, enough to cover about 1% of its population, official data show. The country is currently negotiating with various manufacturers to increase its orders by 50% to reach its 100 million-dose target this year.
Prayuth has defended the vaccine rollout plan, saying there was limited amount of shots available for delivery during the first half of 2021. The government will now work with the private sector to import vaccines and the combined inoculation efforts may allow the country to fully reopen early next year, the business groups said.
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