Thailand will reopen its borders by October, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said in a nationally televised address on Wednesday.
Prayut said that it was a “calculated risk” that the government must take to protect livelihoods and the economy.
Thailand is in the middle of the third wave of Covid-19 with daily infection rates hovering 2,000 cases and 30 deaths per day. Over 1,400 people have died since April 1.
Prayut, whose government has been blamed for incorrect decisions that have exacerbated the current wave, said that his government has been prioritizing saving lives but now reopen the country to help the economy.
”The time has now come for us to look ahead and set a date for when we can fully open our country and start receiving visitors because re-opening the country is one of the important ways to start reducing the enormous suffering of people who have lost their ability to earn an income,” he said.
“I know this decision comes with some risk because when we open the country there will be an increase in infections, no matter how good our precautions. But, I think, when we take into consideration the economic needs of people, the time has now come for us to take that calculated risk.“
The premier alluded to the July reopening of Phuket as well, saying that other tourist areas that were ready would be allowed to reopen even sooner. Thailand plans to adopt the Phuket reopening for other resort islands including Koh Samui and Koh Tao.
Prayut said that he expected the country to vaccinate 50 million people with at least one dose of the vaccine by October.
Due to delays to the local production of AstraZeneca vaccines, Prayut said his government has signed deals with Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna to deliver doses to the country. By the end of the year, the country should have had 100 million vaccines distributed or ready for distribution.
The prime minister did not address why his government chose to rely on local production in the first half of the year to meet the needs of the population – a decision that has spectacularly backfired.
It is also unclear if vaccinating 50 million people with one dose of vaccine will be enough for the country to reopen given the severity and rapidity with which the new Delta variant of Covid-19 is transmitted. A new study from the UK suggests that two doses are necessary to fight off the effect of the new variant.