Thailand to Prioritize Vaccines for Workers to Revive Economy
Thailand is adding workers to the front of the vaccination queue in an effort to buttress the economy as a raging Covid outbreak threatens to delay plans to reopen borders for foreign tourists.
Millions of employees under the social security program in Bangkok, the nation’s capital and financial hub, and nine provinces with large economies will get their shots along with other priority groups, including senior citizens and individuals with underlying conditions, according to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha.
“This group is an important engine to the nation’s economy,” Prayuth said late Wednesday. Workers in other provinces will be able to get inoculated as more vaccines become available, he said.
Thailand has administered about 2.4 million shots and its pace of vaccinations has been slow due to limited supply of jabs. The nation of almost 70 million people has so far focused on health-care and front-line workers, and residents in regions that have an ongoing outbreak, or are preparing to reopen for vaccinated tourists this year.
Thailand has slashed its growth outlook for this year, citing the delay in reopening borders to foreign tourists and slow pace of vaccination. The economy may expand between 1.5% and 2.5% this year, less than the 2.5%-3.5% forecast in February, the National Economic and Social Development Council said Monday.
Prayuth’s administration expects the delivery of millions of doses of vaccines starting in June to help kickstart its mass rollout program. Bangkok, the epicenter of the current outbreak, aims to inoculate 70% of its residents by July, while Phuket, a resort island gearing up for a July tourism reopening, also sets a similar target for the islanders.
“Thailand’s plan to reopen Phuket to vaccinated tourists from July 1 and to expand that program to a number of other provinces, including Bangkok, in October appears ambitious to us,” Barclays Plc economists Brian Tan and Shreya Sodhani wrote in a report Wednesday. “In our base case, we think Phuket will reopen for tourism in September, followed by a few more provinces in December. We expect Bangkok to be reopened last, and only late next year.”
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