Get the Covid act together

Get the Covid act together

As the country teeters on the brink of yet another wave of Covid-19, timely, well-coordinated and sensible responses are called for.

New cases linked to nighttime entertainment venues have risen sharply. In just a few days, the night entertainment cluster which originated in Pathum Thani hit venues in Thong Lor and Ekamai in the capital and then spread far and wide.

Singers, celebrities and professionals in several organisations were reported to have contracted Covid-19, which meant many others who came into contact with them were at risk.

Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob is among the latest confirmed cases after coming into contact with an aide who caught the disease in association with the Thong Lor cluster. The same fate befell Education Minister Trinuch Thiengthong who met with a well-wisher who was later confirmed to have contracted Covid-19.

The government recorded 334 new cases yesterday, and all but seven were locally transmitted. The surge has happened at a most inopportune time, just as the traditional Songkran long holidays are approaching.

Starting next week, hundreds of thousands of people will either travel back to their home towns to visit their families or take time off for long-overdue vacations.

As would-be travellers, business operators and the public at large wait anxiously to see if new restrictions will be issued, the onus now falls on the government to handle the situation swiftly and carefully.

Already some concerns have emerged. Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Tuesday that travellers from Bangkok and other at-risk areas will not have to quarantine when they head to other provinces.

His statement was contradicted by the public health offices in Buri Ram and Nakhon Ratchasima which announced that travellers from the five "red zone" provinces will have to quarantine for 14 days.

Yesterday's decision by the Public Health Ministry and other agencies under the Centre for Covid 19 Situation Administration (CCSA) not to designate red-zone areas may send the wrong signal about the new wave. Even though provincial governors are authorised by the emergency decree to declare measures to tackle the spread of Covid-19, including by imposing lockdowns, such travel restrictions would be more effective if they were made in step with others. But the final decision rests with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who chairs the CCSA.

Another challenge is how to deal with night spots.

The government is stuck between a rock and a hard place in striking a balance between controlling the new surge and ensuring a minimal impact on the sluggish economy and the people's livelihoods, some of whom have yet to recover from the second wave a few months ago. While at least seven pubs and bars are reported to be Covid-19 hot spots, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has ordered 196 such venues in three districts to be closed down.

But with such half-hearted orders -- probably deriving from concerns over budget burdens and vaccine delays -- confusion and panic arises, which only makes matters worse while the problems escalate. What is needed are decisive measures, which seems unlikely give the government's response to previous outbreaks.

It is appalling that after two waves of the disease, the country still hasn't set up an efficient tracing system. The timelines of the activities of high-profile figures who tested positive remain incomplete, and now there are concerns about a cover-up.

The prime minister must show leadership and take immediate action.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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