“No one said the country will reopen on Oct. 1.”
An obvious lie was the parting remark from often foot-in-mouth Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul Tuesday while answering reporters’ questions on the only topic on Thailand’s mind these days: When will the country reopen to foreign tourists.
The answer differs by the day. First, it’s Oct. 1. Then it’s Oct. 15. Some “academics” say it should be Nov. 1. Now? No one can really say.
The only thing that does seem clear is that Bangkok won’t be among the cities “reopening”, and we use that word loosely.
Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn recommended Tuesday that Bangkok’s welcome mat should be held back until Oct. 15, instead of the Oct. 1 date he “confirmed” just a day before.
To be fair, Pipat nor his ministry can decide what will or won’t open, although their cooperation are needed and input listened to, unlike the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
The reason for the 15-day delay? Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang thinks the city can administer Covid-19 vaccine jabs to 32 percent more of the city’s official population by then. Only 38 percent are fully vaccinated now. And even that number has been massaged.
According to the jab counters, the only people who are considered Bangkok residents are the ones with legally registered households in one of the 50 districts. Anyone working in the capital and not registered there (including nearly all expats) or anyone working in the city but commutes from Samut Prakan or other suburbs aren’t included in that 70 percent goal.
But only about 3.4 million people have been fully vaccinated. It would take more than 3 million more second doses to reach the goal in the next month.
But, Pipat said, rest assured (at least today), quarantine-free entry into Bangkok will happen Oct. 15. Quarantine-free doesn’t mean tourists (or expats or returning Thais) won’t have to stay in a price government-certified hotel for at least a week. Or that they won’t have to pay at least 8,000 baht for needless coronavirus tests at a government-certified lab. Or that they will be restricted to the capital for seven days and then another “sandbox” environment for a second week.
It just means they won’t have to be jailed in a hotel room for a few days, like was planned in Pattaya.
But if the Chicken Littles in ivory towers who spout over-caution from their Facebook pages have their way, the entire October reopening would be pushed to November. Anutin acknowledged the pooyai are listening to the revered “academics” over their reluctance to reopen the country at all.
The academics are the main force behind the failed “zero Covid” strategy. They’re being paid by Chula and Thammasat, so if the country was locked down and sealed off, it wouldn’t hurt them. So that’s their position.
Before his laughable claim no one said the country would reopen Oct. 1, Anutin said the entire reopening is still up in the air. “Medical experts” and the Department of Disease Control will decide whether the country is ready to reopen or not.
“The matter cannot be rushed as information on the pandemic situation and risks must be thoroughly addressed,” he told the media.
Anutin also hinted at another wrinkle: That the country may only be reopened for travelers from certain countries, as in “low-risk”. Based on the asinine number of daily cases and deaths again in the United States due to the coronavirus delta variant and anti-vaccine idiots, the U.S. could end up on the “no go” list.
“If we are not ready, the reopening will not be possible,” Anutin said. “We must look at several factors.”