Thailand’s plan to reopen the country in mid-October is going ahead despite a surge in Covid-19 infections, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said.
“The plan is still there. We’ve been trying every way to clean up our country, though the virus is still around. We hope in the coming few months we can welcome our old friends,” Anutin, who is also the Health Minister, told Xinhua news agency on Friday.
“The Phuket Sandbox carries on. It’s a sandbox, so it’s well contained,” said Anutin. The Phuket Sandbox refers to the campaign to reopen the resort island of Phuket to vaccinated foreign visitors.
There have been calls for the suspension of the campaign, although the tourism industry remains a lifeline for many Thais.
To curb the spread of infections, Phuket will ban travel from the rest of the country to the resort island from August 3 to 16, but overseas visitors will not be banned.
The Deputy Prime Minister said the authorities are well prepared and confident to solve the problems that could occur in the Phuket Sandbox campaign.
The campaign was launched on July 1, allowing fully vaccinated tourists to move freely on the island with no quarantine upon arrival.
“When I was in Phuket, almost all the people I met proudly told me they were vaccinated. It creates confidence. I would like to see things like that happen around the country. It will come soon,” said Anutin.
The Deputy Prime Minister urged the people to take vaccines as soon as possible. “Regardless of any reason, having vaccines is far better than not.”
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Thursday (Jul 29) downplayed the COVID-19 situation in Thailand while claiming that other nations are dealing with higher caseloads.
In a special interview held at the Government House, he said: “If we contemplate the transmission in our country, it may seem shocking, given the daily fatalities. I want you to try paying attention to these numbers in our neighboring countries and others for a change.”
On Friday, Thailand reported 17,345 new cases and 117 additional fatalities, raising the total number of infections to 578,375 and the cumulative deaths to 4,679.