Most Thais against reopening country, fear tourists will bring in new Covid-19 cases

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BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – A recent poll shows that most Thais are against reopening the country because they fear tourists will bring in new infections and that not enough locals have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The poll, by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University, asked 1,392 respondents what they thought about Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s plan to open the country to fully vaccinated foreign tourists from Nov 1.

Most respondents (59.86 per cent) rejected the plan, while 60.10 per cent said it was not the right time to reopen the country.

The respondents also said Thailand should open its doors to foreigners only if more than 70 per cent of the population has been vaccinated, the outbreak is brought under control and public health facilities are prepared to deal with new variations of the virus.

While the capital Bangkok has fully vaccinated more than 65 per cent of its population, only about 35 per cent nationwide have received both jabs.

The survey also showed that most business owners and employees wanted the country to be reopened, though the latter group is also concerned about new infections.

Meanwhile, opening the country from Nov 1 will give Thailand’s tourism industry a much-needed boost, and positive economic growth can be expected next year if the Covid-19 situation is well-managed, the Kasikorn Research Centre said on Saturday (Oct 16).

The centre said the number of foreign arrivals should rise by 64 per cent, especially since the Nov 1 opening falls within Thailand’s high season.

The centre predicts that 2021 will see a total of 180,000 foreign tourists, 30,000 more than it forecast previously, generating revenue of at least 13.5 billion baht (S$545 million).

The research centre also said the key factors drawing visitors to the country include provinces with low infection rates, special tourist visas and sandbox schemes. The Phuket Sandbox scheme launched in July has proved to be very popular among tourists from the United States, Britain, Germany and the Middle East.

In another development, Google’s travel insight data shows that more people have been hunting for hotel or accommodation deals in Thailand. Countries with the highest number of searches include Russia, the US, Britain, Germany and India.

The search centred around Bangkok, Pattaya city, Koh Samui in Surat Thani and Phuket’s Karon and Patong areas.

The research centre added that the most crucial factor to bring Thailand’s tourism sector back would be to properly manage the pandemic by getting more than 70 per cent of the population fully vaccinated.

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