Phiphat backs reopening, with a caveat
The tourism minister has defended the country's reopening plan as promised by the prime minister, stating that five more provinces including Bangkok should be ready for visitors from October, followed by another 21 provinces nationwide.
During the no-confidence debate on Wednesday, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the tourism and sports minister, said after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha vowed to reopen the country by mid-October, the ministry and the Tourism Authority of Thailand were assigned to work closely with provincial governors and local communicable disease committees.
However, he said only some provinces or districts are possible to reopen this year under a three-step plan.
The first step started with three projects in four provinces: the Phuket Sandbox and Samui Plus schemes on July 1 and July 15, respectively, followed by two provinces, Phangnga and Krabi, under the 7+7 extension plan in mid-August.
The second step slated for Oct 1 consists of Bangkok, Chon Buri (Pattaya), Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin) and Chiang Mai, while the third step set for Oct 15 comprises 21 provinces across the country.
In the North, six provinces have been selected: Mae Hong Son, Lamphun, Phrae, Nan, Chiang Rai and Sukhothai. Four were chosen in the Northeast: Udon Thani, Nong Khai, Bueng Kan and Ubon Ratchathani.
The South had five provinces selected -- Ranong, Trang, Satun, Songkhla and Narathiwat -- while the eastern region chose Rayong, Chanthaburi and Trat.
Ayutthaya is planned for the central region, while Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi are priorities in the western region.
From Jan 1, 2021, the government also plans to initiative travel bubbles between border provinces and four neighbouring countries: Surin, Sa Kaeo and Trat with Cambodia; Chiang Rai and Ranong with Myanmar; Nakhon Phanom, Nong Khai and Mukdahan with Laos; and Yala, Narathiwat, Songkhla and Satun with Malaysia.
"The government is insisting on its plan to open these areas. In practical terms, these areas should have a 70% vaccination rate and receive mutual approval from local administrations and local health authorities before being reopening," he said.
Mr Phiphat said the ministry is confident about the pandemic situation improving from October as the Public Health Ministry clarified that the country should have an additional 13 million vaccine doses this month, followed by 24 million in October and 23 million doses each in November and December.