Phuket, Pattaya, and other tourist hotspots deemed as “economic priority zones” by the Thai Government are pushing for a partnership with the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to get at least 80% of their local residents vaccinated for Covid-19 by September of this year, 2021.
Phuket especially is leading the drive, stating that it is absolutely critical to put the priority on tourism workers and local residents on their island so they can rebuild their devastated economy, which relies on tourism for nearly 90 percent of their GDP, similar to tourism heavy Pattaya. Pattaya, however, has a higher level of domestic tourism versus international tourism that assists in the economy, especially over weekends, but still welcomed close to ten million foreign tourists, nearly the same as Phuket, in 2019.
The plan to vaccinate local populations, according to Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, would also include foreign residents. He has previously stated there would be no charge for residents, however, it is unclear what this entails and who would qualify based on what visa status one has.
The CCSA has previously stated that along with medical workers and the vulnerable that tourism-related workers and residents in the economic priority zones would get priority for being vaccinated. The majority of Thailand’s vaccines are currently expected to arrive around late May or early June, meaning a very tight time-table to vaccinate the economic priority zones, which are Phuket, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and possibly Krabi. The goal would be to vaccinate the majority of their residents to allow vaccinated tourists to these locations in time for “high season” that generally starts around October.
The Pattaya News notes that some organizations are pushing to let in foreign tourists by June, but more conservative estimates are aiming for October of this year. There are, of course, still a lot of questions around the program and the potential risk of the spread of Covid-19 outside of the so-called “tourist zones.” Thailand is also still working on the potential of a vaccine passport, which has not yet been approved and has its own potential legal questions and feasibility.