BANGKOK — The tourism minister on Wednesday said up to 100,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine has been reserved for hospitality workers in five provinces most popular with foreign tourists – a sign that the country may be on track for a reopening.
Tourism and Sport Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakan told reporters that the five provinces to receive the Sinovac doses are Chiang Mai, Chonburi, Phuket, Krabi and Samui island in Surat Thani.
The vaccine will be distributed to workers at hotels that would be designated as quarantine facilities for tourists who arrive from overseas, Pipat said.
“We want to build confidence for tourists,” he said.
The top tourism official also said he has already proposed the government coronavirus response center to allow arriving tourists to leave their rooms and use hotel facilities after spending just 3 days in quarantine, instead of the current 14-day isolation period.
Pipat’s announcement came as a surprise to many, since the government previously said the priority of the Sinovac doses will be limited to frontline health workers and vulnerable populations in areas hardest hit by the coronavirus.
The first shipment of the Sinovac-developed vaccine, containing nearly 200,000 doses, arrives in Thailand on Wednesday morning. The government said up to 2 million doses made by the Chinese pharmaceutical will be secured by April.
Although several media reports in recent weeks suggest that Thailand will soon allow tourists who are already vaccinated against COVID-19 to visit without undergoing quarantine, Pipat is less than committed to the idea.
“We will have to see how many Thais are vaccinated by the end of the year,” the tourism minister said. “And we will have to see whether the Department of Health can issue vaccine passports by then. If so, then we will submit the proposal.”
He gave no timeline, but said the proposal will probably be submitted to the pandemic center by “the 3rd quarter” at the earliest.