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Asia Minute: Tourism and Coronavirus Both Rising in Thailand

Coronavirus Outbreak Thailand Tourism
Sakchai Lalit/AP
Health workers collect nasal swabs from local residents for coronavirus testing in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, July 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

When it comes to tourism, Thailand has bold ambitions.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha wants to reopen the entire country to international tourism—and do that by October 14.

Last week, Thailand opened three more islands to vaccinated foreign tourists, including Koh Samui, a popular island for international visitors where attractions range from barefoot full moon parties to a high-end Four Seasons resort.

It follows the first step started about two and a half weeks ago on Thailand’s biggest island, a pilot program called the “Phuket Sandbox.”

All the destinations now share the same basic characteristics: fully-vaccinated visitors coupled with COVID testing—and a local population where vaccination rates top 70%, according to government figures.

So far, about 5,000 tourists have come to Phuket. Local officials say 10 have tested positive for COVID.

Elsewhere in Thailand, it’s a very different story: fewer vaccinations, more new cases now topping 9,000 a day across the country while the vaccination rate remains below 10%.

Bangkok remains a hotspot. Restrictions in the capital and surrounding provinces include no eating in restaurants and a nightly curfew.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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