“Today, with the rapid progress of our vaccine rollout, I want to inform you of the roadmap to our recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.
“It is now just over a month since we returned to consolidated management of the Covid crisis, which has allowed me to issue direct instructions to facilitate the integration of plans among our teams and committees. This will allow for a quick solution to problems that may arise in the implementation of such a large undertaking that involves so many different departments. We need to continue working as well as listening to expert advice and to all ministries, departments and sectors involved. This is how we worked when the pandemic started last year.
“This arrangement has helped us make some quick progress in negotiations with new vaccine suppliers. At this time, we are working with six suppliers, namely Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, as well as AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Sinopharm.
“In addition, we have also been able to secure the supply of more doses. Today, we have reserved and signed contracts for 105.5 million doses to be delivered this year, which will put us ahead of our target.
“We will continue to seek additional vaccine supplies for next year. Based on our current plans, we will administer an average of around 10 million shots a month from July, so that by early October, nearly 50 million people will have received at least their first shot.
“The time has now come for us to look forward and set a date for when we can fully open our country and start receiving visitors because reopening Thailand is key to reducing the suffering of people who have lost their source of income.
“I am, therefore, setting a goal for us to declare Thailand fully open within 120 days from today and for tourist destinations that are already prepared to open even faster.
“Foreigners who are fully vaccinated should be able to enter our country without quarantine or any other inconvenient restrictions. And Thais overseas who have been fully vaccinated should also be able to return home without mandatory quarantine. Places of work and businesses should be able to operate normally without blanket restrictions, and domestic travel should also be allowed without restriction. The only exception will be if a truly serious situation develops or seems likely to develop. We will look into those situations on a case-by-case basis.
“I want every government department and provincial governors to make all preparations so people can return to earn a living once again within that [120-day] timeframe. And as part of this, I expect efficient management of our vaccination programme.
“To achieve our target of opening the country in 120 days, we will start off by relaxing some restrictions in Phuket and receiving visitors using the ‘sandbox’ model. I have pushed forward for this matter to be considered and decided upon in next week’s Cabinet meeting.
“Within this timeframe, I believe many other countries will also be relaxing their restrictions on the travel of their citizens and there should be a sufficient number of tourists who may be able to come to Thailand.
“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 are. But, I think, when we take into consideration the financial needs of people, the time has now come for us to take that calculated risk.
“The priorities for our country must now advance to the next level.
“When we first entered the pandemic, my primary mission was to avoid a massive loss of life in Thailand. Preventing the loss of life is not just about protecting the life of the infected person; it is also about preventing long-term financial catastrophe for a family that may lose a breadwinner or everlasting hardship caused by the loss of fathers, mothers and grandparents who care for children in our society.
“To date, we have together managed to make our country one of the safest in the world.
“Another great problem that we avoided is the death of people from other illnesses who require hospital treatment and who would have been crowded out of hospitals by Covid patients and not be able to get their normal care.
“My next mission, with the progress of our vaccination programme, is to rapidly try and get Thailand back to running normally.
“Our national policy must now evolve and we must look on this virus just as we would on the many other diseases that are in the world and with which we must learn to live.
“We have seen that this virus is not going to go away quickly. We have to come to terms with the fact that it will continue to be around across the world and in Thailand for some time. We cannot wait for when everyone is fully vaccinated with two shots to open the country or for when the world is free of the virus. We must be ready to live with some risks and just try to keep it at a manageable level, so people can go back to earning a living. That is the policy I have set.
“To be able to open our country in 120 days we must do everything possible to ensure our vaccines are delivered according to schedule, even though we know full well from other countries that vaccines may not be delivered as scheduled, with delays and shortfalls in the shipments. But we have to do a good job in managing this.
“In the near term, the top policy priority is for everyone to get, at least, their first shot as fast as possible because that first shot already enormously boosts your body’s ability to cope with an infection and can save your life.
“The longer-term solution for our county is that we have decided to build our own vaccine production facility. This enables us to keep our population vaccinated for as many years and as long as is necessary.
“Today, both Singapore and Taiwan have acknowledged that purchasing vaccines from international companies has been one of their biggest challenges in managing the Covid situation. And they too, like us, have decided to manufacture vaccines themselves.
“Our own vaccine production is the best long-term solution and it is a solution that we decided upon more than a year ago. It is the right decision, and I thank again, on behalf of the nation, all the various experts who recommended that direction for our country.
“As we move forward, we will face new situations when we open the country to visitors. I would like to applaud public health personnel, village health volunteers, and other related staff for doing their best to be ready for any new challenge we may face when we open our country, despite the enormous demands placed on them for so long.
“I know there are some risks but this is the right direction for Thailand.
“Ensuring the rollout of such a massive, nationwide inoculation programme within a few months is a truly historic mission that is unprecedented.
“As we move forward in implementing such a large undertaking at such speed and such geographic scope there may be some things that may need adjustment to meet new conditions as they arise in this constantly evolving situation. There may also be certain errors or inconveniences, and I ask for everyone’s understanding.
“I send my gratitude to all who have been working tirelessly for more than a year and a half. We can all see from our own experiences when we go for vaccinations how public health and other staff put their hearts into their work. Their manner, their words and their actions go far beyond just a job. Their work is based on the sincere desire to help their fellow citizens protect themselves.
Published : June 16, 2021
By : The Nation