Government must gird for new Covid variants

The government is revving up urgent plans to cope with the new Covid-19 variants and vows to go ahead next year with plans to strengthen exports, accelerate investment and retain employment.

According to Danucha Pichayanan, secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), related agencies had discussed online urgent plans to cope with the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, if it hits Thailand.

“Omicron variant may pose a potential challenge to economic prospects next year if it spreads into Thailand and the infections become widespread and serious,” said Mr Danucha.

However, he said information about the new Covid-19 variant remains unclear.

Mr Danucha said the Public Health Ministry and Tourism Authority of Thailand agreed that the government needs to tighten procedures for tourist arrivals and tourism sandbox programmes.

Currently, there are around 100,000 tourist arrivals through the tourism sandbox scheme since the Phuket sandbox programme kicked off on July 1 and the country’s reopening on Nov 1.

Mr Danucha said Omicron may affect foreign tourist arrivals in December and next year’s target aimed at five million visitors.

“To prevent any adverse impact from the new Covid-19 variant, the government needs to accelerate the vaccine jabs both to unvaccinated people and those who have already got two doses of the vaccine,” said Mr Danucha.

“The government also needs to revise its vaccine import plans to make sure that the vaccines to be imported can prevent the new Omicron strain.”

In the year to come, the government is also being urged to continue its efforts to strengthen the export sector which is considered the key economic lifeline.

“More migrant workers may be allowed in to prevent any impact on Thailand’s export-orientated manufacturing sector, but health guidelines have to be tightened as well to prevent new infections,” he said.

According to Mr Danucha, stimulus measures are needed to continue next year, but the focus should be on debt restructuring for households and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as retaining employment among SMEs.

Mr Danucha said the government also needs to accelerate real investment of development projects promoted by the Board of Investment, infrastructure development for electric vehicles (EV) such as charging stations and significant parts of the EV, medical and wellness industries.

Special economic zones in the South, the Central region, Northeast and North should be implemented next year in order to draw investment, he said.

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