Thailand’s coronavirus task force on Friday will decide if Pattaya can “move on” and welcome fully vaccinated foreign tourists on Oct. 1.
The Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration is expected to hear, debate and vote on the Pattaya Move On “reopening” plan Sept. 17. Tourism and Sports Minister Pipat Ratchakitprakarn met for more than an hour with Pattaya Mayor Sonthaya Kunplome, Gov. Pakarathorn Thienchai and district officials from Sattahip and Banglamung on Sunday to fine-tune the proposal that is so crucial to a city that is almost entirely dependent on tourism.
Approval from both the CCSA and Cabinet are needed before Pattaya can begin to “move on”.
The Move On plans falls far short of what Pattaya lovers overseas and expats currently abroad were expecting and hoping for. Unlike the Phuket “sandbox”, Pattaya visitors, despite being fully vaccinated, will be confined to their pricey Safety and Health Administration-certified hotels for three days and only allowed to venture out to the immediate area – with a government-supplied tour guide – for the first seven.
The “sealed route” travel will continue for a second week, with tourists only allowed to visit predetermined, “family-friendly” sites, such as Big Buddha Hill and Nong Nooch Tropical Garden, again with a government chaperone and only when Thai tourists aren’t there.
Ironically, “sandbox” tourists for the past two months have showed a coronavirus-test positivity rate of 0.3 percent, versus the Pattaya public, which has tested at 3.7 percent for the past six weeks.
One new wrinkle in the Move On plan emerged Sunday with the thought that Pattaya could be added to the Phuket “7+7” extension, which currently allows sandbox tourists to visit seven other islands in Surat Thani, Phangnga and Krabi provinces.
It’s possible, if their plans are approved, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Prachuap Khiri Khan and Phetchaburi could also become “7+7” destinations, which can be accessed after the first week of sandbox quarantine.
Ackowledging the massive criticism already leveled at the Move On proposal, Pipat said the plan is a “step” toward and not a “full” reopening of Pattaya. He reiterated the justification that, because Chonburi is not an island, extra precautions must be taken to prevent tourists from leaving the area or interacting with the local population.
Why either is necessary – given that 0.3 percent of vaccinated tourists have been tested positive and that 70 percent of Pattaya residents would be vaccinated as well – was left unexplained.
It’s also probable that Pattaya will “reopen” with bars closed, nightlife halted and no alcohol being served in restaurants. That has been the situation in the Phuket sandbox and, with Chonburi still classified a “dark red” coronavirus maximum and strict control zone, likely will be the case come Oct. 1.
However, Chonburi on Monday reported a huge drop in daily cases – only 650 with one death – its lowest daily tally in two months. Of those 650 cases, however, 133 were located in Banglamung District, which includes Pattaya.
Again showing how over-the-top conservative Thai officials are being, Pipat said true, quarantine-free tourism likely won’t return until January or possible as late as Songkran 2022.