Until recently, Thailand was one among the Asian nations which had
the Covid-19 situation under control, counting only minimal local
transmission cases since mid-2020.
However, that began to change in the last few weeks of 2020 when two
major clusters, one linked to a seafood market in Samut Sakhon near
Bangkok and another connected to a gambling den in the eastern province
of Rayong, led to a surge in Covid infections.
Infections are likely to continue to rise countrywide as Thailand
batters with the new Covid wave. As of January 4, Thailand’s total cases
stand at 8,439, with 4,352 recoveries and 65 deaths.
The expected domestic tourism boost during the year-end period, as a
result, was hit as jittery Thai tourists stayed home amid the latest
round of travel advisories.
New Year countdown celebrations across the country were cancelled,
while a lockdown was imposed on Pattaya and most of the city's
entertainment venues were closed as a result.
Bangkok came under a partial lockdown as theme parks, spas, banquet
halls and schools were ordered to be temporarily closed to contain
Covid-19 while keeping open shopping malls, restaurants and public parks
with restricted operating hours.
The New Year holiday, however, has brought some slight relief to
islands like Phuket and Koh Samui. According to local media reports, the
local ferry operator in Samui had to lay on extra services to meet
demand, as cars and visitors queued in both directions before and after
the long holiday, while similar scenes were reported at Phuket’s Sarasin
Bridge, gateway to the holiday island.
In a bid to revive domestic tourism, the Thai government has also
announced extra holidays in 2021 as well as an extension to the domestic
tourism stimulus campaign to stimulate travel spending in the new year.
Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn has also pledged
to revive travel bubble negotiations with other countries after April,
as the pandemic is believed to be more controllable with warmer weather
during the summer season, according to a Bangkok Post report.