As Thailand prepares to open its borders, in a somewhat limited capacity, to foreign business people, medical patients, and selected tourists, a high ranking health official said that the country has a difficult choice to make.
Dr. Supakit Sirilak, the Deputy Permanent Secretary for Public Health, explained that Thailand might need to lower its guard concerning strict lockdowns and restrictions while maintaining effective management of new coronavirus infections if the economy is to have a chance of recovery.
Dr. Sirilak is tasked with evaluating the ongoing covid-19 situation in Thailand as part of a Public Health Ministry committee. He mentioned that the committee had prepared proposals for how Thailand should reopen to tourism and, particularly, the “travel bubble” or bilateral agreements with other nations.
The committee’s proposal has been submitted to the Thai government’s Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). It will be considered along with other measures including the extension of the emergency decree on Monday.
Dr. Sirilak did not provide additional details about the proposal but did suggest that Thailand has a choice between controlling the number of covid-19 infections and opening its borders to revive the economy. He said:
“Thailand has gone 31 days without new local infections, but efforts to keep new cases at zero for long periods will have a high price for us to pay. We would have economic and social losses that we have to accept.”
He continued by explaining that Thailand must strike a balance between controlling the number of coronavirus infections and allowing the economy to recover.
However, he believes it will not be possible for Thailand to achieve both, and new infections are inevitable. He continued:
“However, if we allow too many infections, they will overwhelm our health care system, and this will also have an adverse impact on the economy. Therefore, we must strike a balance — allowing some new infections to happen at a manageable level so the economy can move forward.”
Before the outbreak of covid-19, Chinese nationals accounted for more than 25 percent of all foreign travelers to Thailand. They are one of the main targets for the Thai government’s “travel bubble” plans.
However, it is not guaranteed that Chinese tourists will return to Thailand, even with a bilateral agreement as many other nations battle for Chinese tourist money.
Another primary target for bilateral travel agreement is Japan, with Deputy Prime Minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam, announcing yesterday that 100 business people per day from Japan may enter the country from July 1st.
He also discovered that thousands of Japanese investors and people in business want to come to Thailand.
Dr. Sirilak mentioned that “travel bubble” visitors to Thailand will be restricted to pre-approved accommodation, and bilateral agreements will be created with nations that are free from covid-19.
However, both Japan and China have recent cases of coronavirus, so agreements may be made with cities rather than the entire nation. Dr. Sirilak also said agreement terms could change:
“If the circumstances change, and countries with travel bubble pairings with Thailand have new surges of infections, terms of agreements may also change.”
Despite proposals being submitted to the CCSA, Secretary-General of the National Security Council, Somsak Roongsita, believes any form of “travel bubbles” will not happen soon. He said it could take at least two months before preparations are complete.
For now, Thailand has reached more than one month without any locally transmitted covid-19 cases.
Source: Bangkok Post