on 15 Apr 2021
The Thai resort island launches its mass inoculation programme two months ahead of rest of the country, in a bid to restart devastated economy
Keen to kickstart the country’s lucrative tourism industry as soon as possible, the Thai government has launched a mass rollout of the Covid vaccine in Phuket, two months ahead of the rest of the country.
From July 1, travellers who have been fully vaccinated will be able to enter Phuket without any restrictions, including the current 14-day quarantine requirements.
The island also aims to have vaccinated 460,000 residents – the majority of its population – by July 1. With its own international airport, Phuket can keep its visitors separate from the rest of the country’s population.
Phuket’s beaches have been quiet for an entire year
Resort island Phuket is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand, and is a major Asian yachting hub.
By implementing strict 14-day Covid quarantine requirements, Thailand has so far managed to successfully limit the spread of the virus, with only 97 Covid deaths officially registered. However, the economic impact of the pandemic on the country’s tourism industry has been severe. Spending by foreign tourists accounts for around 12% of Thailand’s GDP. Some 1.45 million jobs are estimated to have been lost in Thailand since last year.
In March, Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong told Reuters: “On July 1 we will open the town for tourists. If we can build immunity for 70-80% of the population, we can receive foreign tourists who have been vaccinated without the need for quarantine.”
Phuket Ao Po Grand Marina
The Thai government has attempted to launch a range of schemes to attract tourists during the pandemic, including a long-term Special Tourist Visa and the option to quarantine on board a private yacht. However, take-up of these options has been low.
The government is hoping the removal of quarantine will boost tourism in Phuket to levels seen in the Maldives, which has remained open to visitors with proof of a negative Covid test since July 2020. Despite a handful of outbreaks, the Indian Ocean island nation has been one of the few travel success stories of the pandemic, with many resorts operating at over 70% occupancy.