Border control is imperative

Border control is imperative

While the county battles its menacing third wave of Covid-19, experts have recently come out to warn that if there is a fourth, it is likely to be the result of illegal border crossings.

This is a far from groundless speculation with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) reporting on Sunday that five recent Covid patients were Thais caught illegally sneaking back from Cambodia --where the highly contagious UK variant has run rampant.

The number of illegal entries this year has certainly been significant enough to justify this hypothesis. From Jan 1-May 9, officials arrested 15,378 illegitimate border crossers -- the majority migrant labourers from Myanmar (6,072), Cambodia (5,114) and Laos (882).

A few days ago, esteemed virologist Dr Yong Poovorawan warned that the South African mutation, which is estimated to be five times more contagious than the variants currently sweeping through Thailand, had been found in Malaysia and posed a risk of entry from the South.

The now-infamous Thong Lor cluster has already demonstrated just how much more dangerous certain strains of Covid-19 can be -- in that case it was found that a Thai national who had visited Cambodia had brought back more than their luggage in the form of the UK variant. A subsequent night out at a number of popular local venues quickly resulted in the severe outbreak.

Yesterday, the CCSA admitted that a returnee from Pakistan had tested positive in quarantine for the variant currently causing heartache and death from New Delhi to Chennai.

With each variant comes a new set of challenges which raise the risk of health services being overwhelmed as cases mount and isolating outbreaks becomes impossible.

There is also the unthinkable possibility that if Covid is not brought under control, variants could emerge that render vaccines ineffective before they have even been widely administered.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, with his gamut of self-given legal powers, must make border control as much of a priority as stockpiling vaccines to achieve the fabled herd immunity that is beginning to seem more like a speck on the horizon than an achievable goal.

One does not need a particularly long memory to recall the outbreak in Samut Sakhon where, despite the diligence and expertise of Thailand's health workers to prevent that cluster taking an even greater toll on lives and livelihoods, not one official has been held to account for the glut of illegal border crossings that swelled the migrant workforce in the province.

The rote response from Immigration Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang to questions on Sunday regarding the state of Thailand's porous borders did not inspire confidence either.

The bureau head simply repeated the well-worn mantra that the borders are sealed and "Those who enter Thailand illegally will be prosecuted under the immigration law, the communicable disease and the emergency decree". Going forward, we can only hope he's right.

It would be a shameful waste of resources and lives if 200 million plus shots of vaccine, and hundreds of thousands of beds, ventilators and doses of favipiravir are wasted on cases caused by the actions of the state itself.

It is imperative that the government pulls itself together to prevent this and subsequent waves of Covid-19 becoming deadly tsunamis of tragic proportions.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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