In Thailand, it is the all-important tourism sector that has jumped to the head of the COVID-19 vaccination line, with the country’s most popular resort island embarking on a mass inoculation program two months ahead of the rest of the country.
The island of Phuket aims to inoculate at least 460,000 people — most of its population — as it gears up for July 1, when vaccinated overseas visitors are no longer to be required to quarantine.
Phuket has its own international airport and tourists would be able to roam the island freely without posing any COVID-19 risk to the rest of Thailand’s population.
“If we can build immunity for 70 to 80 percent of the population on the island, we can receive foreign tourists who have been vaccinated without the need for quarantine,” Phuket Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong said.
While medical workers, members of the Cabinet and older people were the first to be vaccinated, Thailand’s decision to prioritize Phuket over other parts of the country underscores the central role of tourism to the economy.
Spending by foreign tourists accounted for 11 to 12 percent of GDP before the pandemic and the sector has been devastated by the virus with 1.45 million jobs lost since last year.
Just 6.7 million foreign tourists visited Thailand last year, spending about US$11 billion. That compares with nearly 40 million in 2019, when they spent US$61 billion.
The government wants to see at least 100,000 tourists come to Phuket in the third quarter.
It also hopes that as vaccinations worldwide progress, it will see a spike in demand in the fourth quarter and that, nationwide, about 6.5 million visitors would have spent 350 billion baht (US$11 billion) by the end of the year.
“It’s a challenge, but that would contribute some to GDP,” Tourism Authority of Thailand Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said. “We don’t expect tourists to come in like a broken dam, but we hope to have quality visitors with high spending.”
Finansia Syrus analyst Songklod Wongchai said he believes that Thailand could see a quick rebound in tourism, citing the Maldives, where hotel occupancy rates bounced back to 70 to 80 percent, despite COVID-19 cases.
“Pent-up demand might come back faster than expected. I think the ‘Land of Smiles’ will start smiling again,” he said.
Furthering the growing interest in unidentified flying objects (UFOs), or what the US government refers to as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP), the US Department of Defense on Thursday confirmed that photos and videos of UFOs leaked in the past few months were legitimate and taken by US Navy personnel. Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough confirmed to CNN that images and footage of a blinking triangular object in the sky, along with other aerial phenomena that were categorized as a “sphere,” “acorn” and “metallic blimp,” were taken by navy personnel in 2019. Gough told CNN that the department would not comment further on the
DRAWING DISMAY: Giving a forum to the coup leaders at the 10-country bloc’s talks in Jakarta this weekend would legitimize their rule, democracy advocates said Burmese Army Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is to join a special ASEAN summit on the weekend in his first official trip since masterminding a coup which deposed Burmese State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday. The Feb. 1 coup triggered a massive uprising in Myanmar, bringing hundreds of thousands of protesters to the streets to demand a return to democracy, while civil servants have boycotted work in a bid to shutter the junta’s administration. The Burmese military junta has deployed lethal force to quell the anti-coup movement, killing more than 720 people and
AMID NEGOTIATIONS: Tehran for the first time confirmed that there was an explosion at its main nuclear facility on April 11, but denied that it was caused by a cyberattack Iran on Saturday named a suspect in the April 11 attack on its Natanz nuclear facility that damaged centrifuges, saying that he had fled the country “hours before” the sabotage happened. While the extent of the damage from the sabotage remains unclear, it comes as Iran tries to negotiate with world powers over allowing the US to re-enter its tattered nuclear deal and lift the economic sanctions it faces. Already, Iran has begun enriching uranium up to 60 percent purity in response — three times higher than ever before — although in small quantities. The sabotage and Iran’s response have further inflamed
China could see its number of births fall to less than 10 million annually in the next five years if the government does not quickly abolish its policy of limiting families to two children, an expert was quoted by media as saying. China’s total population might also fall in a few years, Guangdong Academy of Population Development director Dong Yuzheng (董玉整) told Yicai, a Chinese financial news outlet. The number of babies born in China fell by 580,000 to 14.65 million in 2019 and the birthrate of 10.48 per thousand was the lowest since 1949 when present methods of collating data