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Thailand’s resort island of Phuket is planning private Covid-19 vaccinations for 250,000 residents, in hopes that the government will allow it to fully reopen to foreign tourists by October.
At least 10 Phuket industry associations including hotels, tourism and chambers of commerce will pool resources to carry out a private vaccination drive to inoculate at least 70 per cent of the island’s population to create sufficient immunity by October 1, according to a report by Channel NewsAsia.
The plan would cover most adults in Phuket before a nationwide government immunisation programme for the public starts in June, it added.
Phuket Tourism Association president, Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, was quoted by the report as saying that they are liaising with three major hospital networks to procure AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines. He also argued that vaccinated foreign tourists should be exempted from quarantine.
Of the nearly 40 million foreign visitors to Thailand in 2019, about 10.5 million visited Phuket. That number dwindled to 2.1 million arrivals in 2020 due to pandemic-induced border closures. It accounted for nearly one-third of the 6.7 million visitors which set foot in the country last year. In that same year, foreign tourism receipts in Phuket dived 78 per cent to 87.5 million baht (US$2.9 million).