Thailand’s economic activity fell back in January due to fresh coronavirus outbreaks fuelled by the Omicron variant, putting the brakes on its recovery in the final quarter of 2021, the central bank revealed on Monday.
Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy in the fourth quarter was helped by robust exports and an easing of Covid-19 curbs.
But the abrupt suspension of a quarantine waiver programme for international arrivals in December impacted on tourism. The waiver will resume on Tuesday.
“We started to see the spread of the Omicron late in December,” Chayawadee Chai-Anant, senior director at the Bank of Thailand, told a news conference. “That has somewhat slowed economic activity in January. But part of that is a seasonal adjustment.”
In December, the economy improved from November with exports increasing and tourism improving following a broad re-opening to foreign visitors in November, after 20 months of mandatory quarantine that saw annual arrivals plunge to less than 1% of pre-pandemic numbers.
Private consumption and investment also increased, the BOT said in a statement.
Exports, a key driver of growth, jumped 23% in December from a year earlier, with imports up 28.2% year-on-year and a trade surplus of $2.8 billion, the BOT said.
The country recorded a current account deficit of $1.4 billion in December after November’s surplus of $0.3 billion.
The economy in the final quarter of 2021 likely performed better than the previous quarter and better than expected, Chayawadee said, without giving specific forecasts.
Official fourth-quarter and 2021 GDP data are due to be released next month.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara