Thailand is set to kick off vaccination drive next month, its finance minister says

Thailand is set to kick off vaccination drive next month, its finance minister says

SINGAPORE — Thailand will receive its first batch of vaccines next month and plans to start producing its own, according to its finance minister.

For a start, about 100,000 doses will be arriving, Arkhom Termpittayapaisith told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.

“The first vaccines will be coming to Thailand next month, the first lot,” he said, adding that Thai firm Siam Bioscience will be working with pharmaceutical company British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca to develop vaccines to make it available for both Thailand and other countries.

He was speaking to CNBC as part of the coverage of World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda.

Thailand will kickstart its vaccine rollout on Feb. 14 and aims to inoculate 19 million people in the first phase, its prime minister said Wednesday, according to a Reuters report.

The Southeast Asian nation has secured 26 million doses from AstraZeneca to be produced by Siam Bioscience and 2 million doses from China’s Sinovac, the report said. It has also reserved 35 million doses from AstraZeneca, it added.

Pandemic hits tourism

Termpittayapaisith also said that tourism is expected to recover by the end of the year, rather than mid-year as earlier predicted. The Thai economy relies heavily on tourism for growth, but foreign tourist arrivals came to an almost complete stop during the pandemic.

Tourism arrivals plunged 66% in the first six months of 2020 to 6.69 million, as countries around the world implemented lockdowns and travel restrictions due to the pandemic hit.

By comparison, Thailand had a record 39.8 million tourists in all of 2019, according to Reuters. Tourist spending accounted for about 11% of Thai GDP that year, the report said.

Commuters, wearing facemasks wait for a canal boat in Bangkok on March 2, 2020.

MLADEN ANTONOV | AFP | Getty Images

“We are focused on domestic consumption as well, so you can see that the economic package … (is) promoting more spending on grassroots economy,” Termpittayapaisith said, adding that it’s targeted at compensating for the decline in revenue from international tourism.

Thailand on Thursday slashed its economic growth forecast for this year to 2.8%, from the 4.5% it projected earlier. The economy is expected to contract 6.6% in 2020, according to its central bank.

The country on Tuesday reported a record 959 cases, the highest daily rise since early January, as it ramped up its testing, according to Reuters.

Thailand has one of the lowest reported cases in Southeast Asia. It has so far reported 17,023 cases, and 76 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

This article is auto-generated by Algorithm Source: www.cnbc.com

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