BMA wrong on tests

BMA wrong on tests

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) decision to conduct random, instead of blanket, Covid-19 tests on migrants at construction worker camps in the capital does not seem like a well-thought out idea and needs a review.

The Labour Ministry is said to be at odds with the BMA over virus testing of this vulnerable group. City administrators insisted on blanket testing, as instructed by the Prayut Chan-o-cha government following the closure of worker camps on June 24 to contain the virus.

They then deemed it "too big a task" for the local agency and abruptly switched, ignoring concerns raised by the ministry and civic groups who lambasted the practice as discriminatory against migrants.

Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin, who made it clear that he preferred swift blanket testing of migrant workers, said the quota for the BMA's random testing -- only 75 workers per camp -- is not sufficient.

Yet he could not pursue the idea of inclusive testing as it was Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang, in his capacity as chief of the disease control panel in the capital, who had the final say.

According to the minister, camps around Bangkok, Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani for instance, have no such problems as the respective governors give the nod for 100% virus testing. He said budgeting is not a problem, given that each worker made a contribution of 1,900 baht to the labour fund.

The treatment of migrant workers by some state agencies during the Covid-19 pandemic has been less than impressive and there are complaints about poor living conditions and overcrowding.

This could accelerate transmission, causing infection clusters. Another problem is that necessities in these sealed camps are often running scarce. Although the government promised assistance, in practice there are shortages.

Earlier this week, civic groups launched a campaign to help workers in the closed camps, urging people who live near construction sites to look out for the workers and provide food and other assistance to those in the restricted sites.

The BMA should step in, develop a network with these civic groups and give help where possible.

City administrators must be aware the coronavirus does not discriminate. Protecting only Thais or people in the city is not enough. If they want to better control the outbreak, they must pay special attention to areas that are prone to cluster infections like construction camps.

Swift, decisive and efficient action is the key to solving the virus problem -- not discrimination. More efforts must be made to improve the living conditions of this vulnerable group. The state should also ensure that construction sites are well-managed so workers respect physical distancing rules and follow Covid-19 preventive measures.

Apart from food, necessities such as soap, hand sanitiser and face masks must be available so migrants at camps can protect themselves. City authorities must think about a mass vaccination campaign for this group. If doing so is not part of their job, they should play a role as organiser for such a crucial campaign.

City authorities should know that as long as camp clusters persist, Bangkok will not be safe from the virus.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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