Victims of our success
The Department of Disease Control under the Ministry of Public Health has a plan to a recommendation to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)’s sub-committee to reduce the quarantine period for returnees and tourists from 14 to 10 days.
The sub-committee then will forward the advice to the main body of the CCSA which will make a decision by the end of this month.
If the CCSA and the government agree, the shorter quarantine policy is likely to commence almost right away next month.
The recommendation has been carefully considered and is based on the department's monitoring of infection rates among foreigners and returnees to Thailand, as well as research from Switzerland and the country's own handling of quarantines.
If successful, the government and society as a whole will have more confidence to try other measures such as launching seven-day quarantines, or it may even launch a travel bubble policy which allows tourists and visitors to enter countries without mandatory quarantine. Even though the policy has made good timing, some critics still urge the government to rethink.
For instance, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) urged the government to stick with the 14-day quarantine, saying the country could not afford to pay compensation and economic losses posed by a second wave of coronavirus.
Although the reopening of the country, with such measures like shorter quarantine time, seems like the inevitable choice, the government must pay attention to these warnings. Mistakes will cause a major backfire.
The first test is the government must make sure the special visa and shortened quarantine will be given to only tourists from known low-risk countries -- China, Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia -- and prevent any possible tricks to exploit this 10-day quarantine quota.
It would be prudent to introduce the first shortened quarantines in tourist hubs that are ready prepared for Covid measures, such as Phuket. That will serve as a good pilot project to test Covid-19 testing and tracking mechanisms.
The government must lay out its system for medical officials to trace these visitors after they leave quarantine sites to visit other tourist destinations. There must be a mobile app or system in place to let health officials trace where tourists go and locate them if infections do occur.
But the most important factor is participation and cooperation from local people and local administration agencies. An exemplary case is how Mae Sot in Tak province is dealing with the latest infections. The community faced the risk of Covid-19 infection after three truck drivers from Myanmar tested positive this month and so far, five local villagers have also tested positive.
Local health officials have tested over 4,000 villagers. The municipal administration has located and locked down five out of 20 communities and have a database and preventive plans for 20,000 vulnerable people -- elders and students. Apparently, local officials and villagers know what to do.
The government must work harder to prepare all communities to be ready for potential opening like those in Mae Sot. It must encourage the public to observe social distancing and use the Thai Chana app.
Otherwise, Thailand will not be able to step out from its cocoon and we will end up as prisoners of our own success, with low infection rates, but a completely battered economy.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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