Thailand’s plan to re-open the country to foreign tourists in about 100 days has been thrown into doubt as it sees a new spike in COVID cases.
Some 7,000 cases and 75 deaths were reported today, a daily record for the country. Thailand had last year seen success in combating the virus, with cases at one point dwindling to single digits.
But a spike in cases, linked to the highly infectious Delta strain, means its plans might have to be put on hold.
The rise in cases have put the country’s medical system under strain, with reports suggesting that many hospitals have already run out of beds for critically ill patients.
Authorities announced earlier this week that they planned to convert a terminal at its airport into a field hospital with an intensive-care unit. The hospital will provide at least 5,000 beds.
Once a bustling holiday hotspot, Thailand’s tourist industry has been hit especially hard by the pandemic.
Last month, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha set a 120-day target for the country to be fully reopened, with all businesses back to normal and freedom for vaccinated tourists to travel across the country.
He said Thailand could not wait for a time when everyone is fully vaccinated with two shots, or for when the world is free of the virus, to reopen.
Earlier last week, Thailand opened its doors to its first batch of quarantine-free tourists in Phuket.
On Wednesday, Phuket reported its first overseas COVID-19 case – a male traveller from the United Arab Emirates.
Around 15 per cent of Thailand’s population has received at least one vaccine dose – with 4.3 per cent of that total having received both shots.