The government needs to put its money where its mouth is and truly start to “live with Covid” and resist the usual knee-jerk move to locking down the country because of the new omicron coronavirus variant, Thai business leaders said.
Tourism leaders said Monday they are in favor of strict precautions, but not to the point of imposing curfews, limiting business hours or locking down the country for the third time.
Chamnan Srisawat, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand, studies preliminary omicron studies indicate that the variant is less likely to cause serious illness, which gives some hope to the tourism industry.
He believes that if the virus becomes endemic, the tourist forecast for next year will improve since the hotel sector will be able to resume normal operations when people regain confidence in traveling again.
Chamnan said the Public Health Ministry’s decision on when to restart the “Test & Go” tourist-entry scheme requires more information, but that the ministry should keep people informed about omcron to help alleviate growing concerns and allow them to gradually adjust their lives while maintaining universal prevention measures.
The Federation of Thai Industries agrees with the government adopting stricter measures to prevent an omicron outbreak, but wanred it against resorting to lockdown protocols, such as restricting opening-closing hours to a nighttime curfew.
FTI Chairman Supant Mongkolsuthree said another lockdown would only shock the recovering economy and emphasized the need to find a way to coexist with Covid-19.
The pandemic caused business operators to adopt many hygiene standards, ranging from SHA Plus, a label indicating Safety and Health Administration standards and vaccination of 70% of employees, to Thai Stop Covid Plus, which allows customers to inspect business services and make complaints.
Advanced Info Service Plc, the country’s largest mobile operator by subscriber base, is optimistic about Thailand’s pandemic outlook since the number of infections, deaths, and hospitalizations has gradually decreased.
AIS chief executive Somchai Lertsutiwong said the current pandemic situation differs from previous waves of the outbreak and believes a lockdown policy will not be implemented again due to the increased number of vaccinations.
He advised that the government maintain preventive measures and provide proper care for infected patients, as well as find ways to prevent the smuggling of people into the country.
Companies in the energy sector are not seriously concerned about the spread of the omicron variant because of mass vaccinations and a state of “immunity” within some businesses.
However, business operators have agreed to remain vigilant as uncertainties caused by the new highly transmissible variant and global oil prices could occur. Some companies also held off on making investments that are not deemed urgent and adopted measures to help delay loan payments.
Meanwhile, Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, believes the government is unlikely to reinstate rigid lockdown and curfew measures because it has become clear such rules caused enormous damage to the country and the overall economy. He said companies are ready to cooperate with stricter government measures to contain the spread of omicron.
The chamber will try its best to supervise its members to follow the safety and preventive measures, particularly for shops, restaurants, and businesses related to tourism.