Call for booster shots for residents of sandbox areas

Call for booster shots for residents of sandbox areas

Health workers administer doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to elderly residents at a sports stadium in Phuket on Tuesday. (AFP photo)
Health workers administer doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to elderly residents at a sports stadium in Phuket on Tuesday. (AFP photo)

The Tourism Council of Thailand (TCT) has urged the government to prepare booster shots for residents in sandbox areas.

"Herd immunity across the country, especially in 10 pilot destinations, is the most crucial factor for successful reopening," said Chamnan Srisawat, TCT president.

As the country cannot wait until the outbreak completely disappears, sandbox areas still need more booster shots to mitigate the risk of new variants and possible new rounds of outbreaks which will further hinder tourism recovery, he said.

According to the TCT survey, 53% of operators and 60% of locals agree that the government has to implement a strict lockdown as seen during the first wave of the contagion last year.

They urged a one-month lockdown to quickly control the situation if there is a new outbreak in the future.

The council conducted a survey among 725 tourism operators, and several hundred people nationwide in Phuket, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Chiang Mai during May 15-30.

Some 67% of locals want to get vaccinated within this year, and 50% prefer alternative vaccines than those procured by the government.

Pfizer is the most preferred vaccine for them at 36%, followed by Johnson & Johnson (11%), AstraZeneca (10%), Moderna (8%) and Sinovac (7%), while 26% would be vaccinated with any vaccine.

In terms of travel demand, around 48% of locals will still maintain the same frequency of domestic trips after completing two doses, while 19% will increase the number of trips after vaccination.

Meanwhile, public perceptions of inoculated local tourists were at high level in sandbox provinces, including Phuket (97%), Koh Samui (96%) and Pattaya (85%). However, Chiang Mai saw a smaller number of 44%.

Most people in Phuket (74%) and Pattaya (84%) also agree to welcome international tourists who were fully vaccinated, while Koh Samui and Chiang Mai were more reluctant at 39% and 40%, respectively.

Mr Chamnan said it is important that Chiang Mai and Koh Samui communicate with local people to create a better perception.

Despite a spike in new cases in the capital and nearby areas, 53 provinces designated yellow zones can help drive interprovincial travel between low infection areas, said Suthiphong Pheunphiphop, TCT vice-president.

As of 24 June, there are 2.45 million Thais who were fully vaccinated, so the council plans to propose the new travel scheme from August to October.

Mr Suthiphong said if they can attract half of them, or 1.2 million, to travel with average spending per trip of 5,000 baht, the country will get 6.1 billion baht income which can create broader economic impact for the whole supply chain of around 18 billion baht.

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