BANGKOK - Thailand will reopen to visitors within 120 days after more than a year of coronavirus travel curbs, a calculated risk needed to revive its troubled economy, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Wednesday.
The country was ahead of target in securing 105.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccine for this year, and would seek more supplies next year, Prayuth said in a nationally televised speech.
Prayuth added that the country plans to administer an average of 10 million shots of coronavirus vaccine each month from July onwards and aims to reopen the tourism-reliant country to fully vaccinated travelers, local and foreign, without a quarantine requirement.
"Re-opening the country is one of the important ways to start reducing the enormous suffering of people who have lost their ability to earn an income," he said.
"When we take into consideration the economic needs of people, the time has now come for us to take that calculated risk.
He said he aimed to declare Thailand fully open within 120 days and for tourism centres that are ready, "to do so even faster".
He said the risk was necessary and the country could not afford to wait to complete all of its vaccinations and for the spread of the virus to halt.
Strict entry requirements and quarantine measures helped keep Thailand's coronavirus outbreaks under control until recent months, but the curbs saw arrival numbers plummet to a fraction of its nearly 40 million visitors in 2019.
It will start with a pilot reopening from July 1 on its most popular island, Phuket, which has been vaccinating most of its local population.
Thailand lost about $50 billion in tourism revenue last year - an 82% plunge.
Prayuth urged the public to get vaccinated as fast as possible and said the reopening target could only be met if the vaccines are delivered according to the committed schedules.
(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Martin Petty) ((Panu.Wongchaemail@example.com; +6626488658;))