BANGKOK — The government’s proposal to reopen Bangkok to vaccinated foreign tourists will be postponed from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15 due to the low number of vaccinated residents inside the capital city, a top tourism official said Wednesday.
Tourism and sports minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn told reporters the reopening can only go ahead if 70 percent of Bangkok’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. As of this week, only 37 percent of the population is fully inoculated, Pipat said.
He added that the decision to postpone the reopening was made after a meeting between the tourism ministry and Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang.
It is also unclear what Pipat meant by “reopening.” He made no mention of whether foreign tourists will still have to be quarantined for 14 days upon their arrival in Bangkok, or whether they will be free to travel around the city like the “Phuket Sandbox” program.
The delay is a setback to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s pledge to reopen Bangkok and four other provinces to foreign tourism by Oct. 1. The four provinces are Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, Phetchaburi, and Prachuap Khiri Khan.
The plan came under scrutiny from some health experts, who feel that the number of the vaccinated population is not high enough. A number of business owners also fear they may not be able to prepare the health and safety measures in time for the Oct. 1 deadline.
For instance, Dr Prasit Watanapa from the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, told the media that Thailand is not ready to re-open given its low vaccination rate.
He said the government should take heed of the recent outbreaks in Phuket, which is seeing a large number of infections everyday.