Growing Thai Outbreak Could Threaten Tourism Re-Opening Plan
Customers have a drink at a bar on Khaosan Road in Bangkok. (Photographer: Nicolas Axelrod/Bloomberg)

Growing Thai Outbreak Could Threaten Tourism Re-Opening Plan

A growing outbreak in Thailand, where local Covid-19 cases hit a new daily record on Sunday, threatens to undermine the nation’s plan to welcome back tourists.

The country saw daily infections surge to 967, bringing its total tally to over 32,600 cases, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

Cases have spiked every so often since the start of the year, and the latest figures suggest the coronavirus spread has yet to be contained in the Southeast Asian nation. This could jeopardize the tourism-reliant country’s efforts to boost the local travel industry.

“The outbreak is worrying and could derail Thailand’s plans” to resume tourism activities more widely, said Jeremy Lim, director of the Leadership Institute for Global Health Transformation at the National University of Singapore.

Thailand is already planning to reopen Phuket from July and waiving quarantine for vaccinated tourists heading there. It’s using the resort island as a testing ground before expanding similar measures to other tourist hotspots such as Koh Samui.

“From a public health perspective, it would be a disaster for the world if Thailand pushes through its plans regardless of the ground situation, and Thailand becomes a super spreader site,” Lim said, referring to the tourism plans.

As part of its tourism efforts, it has already approved a list of eight Covid-19 vaccine makers, including Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Pfizer Inc., for foreign visitors seeking to shorten a mandatory quarantine on arrival.

Tourism has never been more important to Thailand. It’s betting on a return of overseas visitors to rescue the country from its worst economic performance in more than two decades. Tourism contributed to a fifth of its economy before the pandemic. Foreign tourist arrivals into Thailand plunged to the lowest level in at least 12 years after the country closed its borders.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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