Several leading doctors in Thailand who advise the Ministry of Public Health and the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) have made social media posts this weekend stating they are strongly opposed to opening Thailand to tourists at this point in any way, shape or form.
The concern follows the government announcing on Friday a plan to cautiously re-open Phuket to a limited number of foreign tourists in October. You can read more about that below.
It is noted the plan is approved in principle but needs final approval from the CCSA and Ministry of Public Health, which are mostly comprised of doctors.
Dr. Thira Woratanarat, who is an advisor to the Ministry of Public Health, is no stranger to calling for borders to be closed for at least six months. The Pattaya News has written several times about him as can be seen below.
In addition, Dr. Prasit Watanapa, The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, has also repeatedly warned about re-opening borders and allowing in tourists, saying the country should wait for the virus to ease world-wide first.
Both are prolific posters on Facebook, posting daily advice, videos and warnings to their many followers while advising the government.
Their recent warnings mostly concern the Ministry of Tourism searching for a way to bring back foreign tourists for the fourth quarter of 2020, normally called high season in tourist areas of Thailand and critical to the tourism industry. In hard hit Pattaya, Phuket and Samui the December and January months can be critical to some business surviving the entire year.
Dr. Thira Woratanarat stated that the government should cease all plans for at least six months and focus on self sufficiency vs. being reliant on foreign tourism. He has consistently warned that vigilance needs to be high while pointing at examples of New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong, among others, who had controlled the virus then had second outbreaks, leading to restrictive lockdowns and more economical pain. He was firmly against the Phuket plan.
Dr. Prasit Watanapa, meanwhile, also warned that the current major strain of the virus was more transmittable and that no plan was foolproof.
Both, along with other prominent doctors like Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin of the CCSA, have urged caution. The majority seem to feel the government should wait for a vaccine before attempting to relaunch tourism, despite the devastating effect the measures have had to the countries tourist destinations.
The doctors all agreed that with proper government support measures and a focus on self sufficiency the country will survive an extended closure, but state it could not easily survive a second extended lockdown shutting nearly everything.
The CCSA, however, for the most part said they are prepared for a second outbreak and would focus on localized restrictions, testing, tracing and other measures vs. a draconian country wide lockdown/curfew that devastates the population and economy.