Phuket, Thailand is a popular resort island destination for many an international tourist.
According to The Thai Enquirer, Phuket is planning to reopen its doors to vaccinated, international tourists by October, pending approval from the national government.
"Phuket First October"
Named Phuket First October, the local government initiative moves to revive a battered tourism industry by vaccinating a majority of its population over 18 years of age, by Oct. 1.
They intend to do this through a private vaccination plan, rather than waiting for the nationwide government immunisation programme for the public slated to start in June.
Speaking to Reuters, Bhummikitti Ruktaengam, president of the Phuket Tourist Association, said that they are in talks with three major hospital networks to procure AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines.
He declined to provide more details.
At least 10 Phuket industry associations, including hotel, tourism and chambers of commerce, have agreed to pool resources to procure the vaccines and inoculate at least 70 per cent of Phuket's population to achieve herd immunity.
Thai Enquirer reported that initial research suggests about 250,000 of Phuket's residents will have to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity in time to reopen the province.
Phuket has a population of at least 400,000.
Additionally, the island is also looking to relax or waive the 14-day quarantine for vaccinated tourists.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha had recently announced that a quarantine waiver is being considered for visitors who can provide a vaccination certificate.
Tourism in Phuket
According to the Phuket Tourist Association, the number of international visitors in 2020 fell to 3.8 million, with a second wave of the outbreak decreasing numbers even further by about 93 percent in 2021.
With many of Phuket's residents working in the hospitality sector, this has had a devastating impact on the population.
Anthony Lark, President of the Phuket Hotels Association, told Thai Enquirer they estimate that around 80,000 to 100,000 staff have lost their job on the island.
It's why the island's business leaders are continuing to push for the plan, despite the province's proposal being initially denied by the national government earlier this month.
A petition was submitted to Prayuth – citing lack of income, mounting debts and increasing financial disputes due to over eight months without international or domestic flights.
The national government must make a decision on Phuket's plans by April, if the province intends to open for tourism by Oct. 1.
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