Minor Chairman Offers Advice to Thailand's Prime Minister on Covid-19 Vaccination Drive

Hospitality staff should be included in Phase I vaccination distribution

  • 12:41 PM, 4 Feb, 2021

(Thailand January 28, 2021) Founder & Chairman of Minor International PCL William Heinecke (pictured right) on January 28, 2021 released an open letter to General Prayuth, Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand (pictured lower right) about the Covid-19 Vaccination Drive.

While commending the government on not introducing new business shutdowns Mr Heinecke makes specific policy recommendations regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. His first suggestion is that hospitality staff be included in Phase 1 vaccine distribution.  “We believe,” he writes, “that hospitality staffs, which include airline operators, flight attendants, pilots and hotel employees should be included in Phase 1 of the vaccination rollout. It is important to note that many of these hotel staffs have been working in quarantine facilities since the beginning of the pandemic and have been exposed to heightened COVIDE-19 risk…Prioritising them along with healthcare workers and other high-risk groups for the vaccine would provide a necessary layer of protection for the country.” He cites the example of the UAE that prioritized hospitality workers.

Mr Heinecke advocates for the Thai Government considering more vaccine options as a matter of urgency and he ‘strongly supports’ its efforts to purchase and develop vaccines. “But considering the urgency of the situation, authorities should further expediate the rollout of vaccines.” He believes that the current timeline is still not fast enough. “Apart from those secured orders from AstraZeneca and Sinovac, the government should consider and evaluate information from al available vaccine manufacturers.

The CEO does not only offer advice, he offers help. “We would like to step up our help and effort to support this next phase of recovery. We urge the government to allow private hospitals together with Alternative State Quarantine hotels to be able to administer COVID-19 vaccinations for their guests during the quarantine period.”

He also urges another point that is gaining traction: “Allow quarantine-free travel for vaccinated people,” he writes. “People in Thailand who have received the vaccines should be granted permission to travel domestically and internationally without having to go through quarantine process. We do realize that wearing a mask and social distancing practices should still be in place until the virus is brought under control. Nevertheless, essential business travellers who have been vaccinated such as top management from Thai-based multinational companies should be able to resume their essential business travel in order to manage their overseas businesses and investments during this critical time. On being vaccinated, they should be exempted from a full 14-day quarantine up their return to Thailand.”

Mr Heinecke does not explain why, if it is safe for ‘top management’ who have been vaccinated to travel and not be quarantined why it shouldn’t be the case for the general public. He does urge the Prime Minister to prepare to welcome incoming international travellers with ‘ vaccination passports’. “We do realize that the idea of a ‘vaccination passport’  is still in the early stages of global consideration. However, we have already seen many countries planning to implement such certificate or immunization record, hoping to facilitate faster movement. Some airlines had firmly state that proof of vaccination will be necessary for international flights. Therefore, it is important for the Thai government to lay the groundwork in advance of such a likelihood. Travel procedures will need to be formulated for Thailand to accept proof of vaccination as we settle into a new normal for the already-vaccinated.”

Currently airlines are allowing people to travel without having been vaccinated, but most require a negative COVID-19 before allowing people to travel. This hasn’t prevented people arriving in Singapore who then test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival.

“For example, in mid-January,” Mr Heinecke continues. “Seychelles announced it was opening to vaccinated travellers from all over the world. The new policy would not require those with vaccinations to quarantine or take COVID-19 tests upon arrival. The island has become the first nation to adopt such relaxation, sparking great excitement among international travellers.”


For Thailand, the CEO suggestions: “We would like to propose an idea to use Phuket as a pilot model to test a return of international visitors, especially those who have been vaccinated from their own countries. International travels who present proof of COVID-19 vaccination should be exempted from quarantine. We believe that the Phuket Tourist Association is currently working with relevant parties to introduce a concrete action plan and we are in full support of this initiative. Once the model has been successfully implemented, it can then be rolled out to other parts of the country, principally Koh Samui, Pattaya and other key destinations that are badly affected by the lack of international tourists.”

Mr Heinecke concludes, “It is imperative that the Thai government recognizes the significance of the hospitality sector on the nation’s economy and the well-being of its citizenry. I strongly believe that with the right direction on vaccine policies Thailand can make a safe return to international travel. Once again, thank you for consideration of my comments. I look forward to doing what I can to support your government’s efforts and work together to rebuild the economy.

This is not the first letter that Mr Heinecke has written to the Thai Government. The chairman of the hotel chain wrote in March 2020 to Thai prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Bangkok governor Pol General Aswin Kwanmuang, pleading for public movement and activities to be contained amid the rising number of new Covid-19 infections.

Mr Heinecke wrote that a large portion of Thailand “does not seem to understand the gravity of our situation and is not taking the threat seriously enough.”

Over the years he has also written about other topics of concern to him.

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