Thailand puts tourism first with vaccines for Phuket

Thailand is hoping a mass immunisation campaign on the island of Phuket will help fill-up its empty beaches.

The government is prioritising vaccines for the popular resort island two months ahead of the rest of the country.

It's all part of an effort to kick start Thailand's lucrative tourism industry.

Before the pandemic, spending by foreign tourists usually accounting for about 12 percent of Thailand's GDP.

The aim is to deliver shots to at least 460,000 people on the island as it gears up for July, when overseas visitors, who've been vaccinated, will no longer be required to quarantine.

Phuket's provincial vice governor, Piyapong Choowong:

"On July 1st we will open the town for tourists. If we can build immunity for 70-80% of the population on the island, we can receive foreign tourists who have been vaccinated without the need for quarantine."

Strict 14-day quarantine requirements have helped Thailand limit coronavirus to around 29,000 cases and 95 deaths.

But the measures have also devastated the country's tourism industry, with 1.45 million jobs lost in the sector since last year.

Phuket has its own international airport so tourists will be able to roam the island freely without posing a risk to the rest of Thailand's population.

Medical workers, members of the cabinet, and the elderly, have also taken priority in Thailand's mass inoculation drive.