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Thailand’s finance minister on vaccine adoption and tourism restoration

SINGAPORE – Thailand will receive its first batch of vaccines next month and plans to produce its own vaccines, according to finance ministers.

Initially, about 100,000 cans will arrive, 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 company Siam Bioscience will work with Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop vaccines that will be used both for Thailand and for other countries are available.

He spoke to CNBC as part of the coverage of the World Economic Forum’s Davos agenda.

Thailand will begin rolling out vaccines on Feb. 14 and intends to vaccinate 19 million people in the first phase, its prime minister said on Wednesday, according to a Reuters report.

The Southeast Asian nation has According to the report, 26 million cans of AstraZeneca to be made by Siam Bioscience and 2 million cans of China’s Sinovac were secured. It has also reserved 35 million cans from AstraZeneca, it added.

Pandemic meets tourism

Termpittayapaisith also said tourism is expected to recover by the end of the year rather than mid-year as forecast. The Thai economy relies heavily on tourism to grow, but arrivals of foreign tourists almost completely stalled during the pandemic.

Tourism arrivals fell 66% to 6.69 million in the first six months of 2020 as countries around the world put bans and travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic.

By comparison, Thailand had a record 39.8 million tourists in 2019, according to Reuters. Tourist spending represented around 11% of Thailand’s GDP that year, the report said.

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

MLADEN ANTONOV | AFP | Getty Images

“We’re also focusing on domestic consumption so you can see that the economic package … encourages more spending on the basic economy,” Termpittayapaisith said, adding that it aims to offset the decline in international tourism revenue.

Thailand cut its forecast for economic growth for this year from 4.5% to 2.8% on Thursday. According to the central bank, the economy is expected to shrink by 6.6% in 2020.

The country reported a record 959 cases on Tuesday, the highest daily increase since early January when it accelerated its testing, according to Reuters.

Thailand has one of the lowest reported cases in Southeast Asia. So far, 17,023 cases and 76 deaths have been reported, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

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