Market passes virus test, but many folk don't
Normally, I would be upset at being banned from entering the fresh market in my community.
And usually, the fresh market in my community, just as with thousands of others up and down the country, is a relaxed place to visit, even when one has no intention of buying anything.
Sadly, with the country gripped by a new, more intense round of Covid infections, all visitors have to go through the by-now familiar regime of temperature checks and handwashing before being allowed to pass through its gates.
As it happened, my temperature was a tad high, close to 37 degrees Celsius. I tried to explain to the member of staff on duty that it was nothing more serious than a passing cold, but she rightly remained steadfast and I returned home, both disappointed that my afternoon had been spoiled but relieved that measures to prevent further contagion are being adhered to across the board.
And with this stern attitude toward grassroots safety precautions there comes too an equally stern reaction to the government's currently handling of a situation which has gone from bad to worse. What a difference a year makes. This time last year, the authorities were being widely praised as Thailand appeared to have skillfully navigated a path around the eye of a storm that was ravaging the rest of the world.
Personally, I am somewhat more moderate in my assessment as I believe the onus should fall upon us all to take responsibility for preventing the transmission of Covid-19 at the community level, just as that member of staff took responsibility for denying me access at the market despite my protestations.
Coronavirus, in its many guises, has been present in the Kingdom for almost two years now and still shows no signs of abating.
When it began spreading early last year, the Thai government's initial response seemed appropriate -- first seeking the advice of top doctors and infectious diseases experts in order to reassure the public that it was acting wisely to bring the situation under control.
The government also set up the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to be a focal point for implementing justified and sweeping measures to curb the domestic spread of the virus.
With its daily updates and top-down powers, many seemed content to allow an agency that seemed to be doing everything right to carry the burden of protecting the country. That was until a cluster of infections in the Thong Lor area of Bangkok appeared to set off the third, and most severe, wave of infections early last month.
The outbreak quickly hit middle-income homes in a tangible way for the first time as their offspring, many of whom are regular party-goers in the affluent city district, brought the virus back to the suburbs.
While the number of new cases reported by the CCSA has exceeded 2,000 nearly every day since then, I believe the real figure is likely to be many times greater as positive diagnoses are limited by the total number of tests carried out. Especially as new, even more contagious variants have been identified as having entered the country.
Indeed, it may well be the case that the government should have been better prepared and deserves to be rebuked for taking its eye of off the ball as its handling of the student protests began to take centre stage in the nation's daily news agenda.
However, when it comes to this third wave, I think we must all shoulder some of the blame for dropping our collective guard to this sucker punch which has knocked the country back into a cycle of pseudo-lockdowns and business closures.
People had quickly returned to their old habits and compliance with sensible measures to limit the impact of new cases had fallen considerably.
Perhaps it was the false sense of security that Thailand's inordinately low case numbers afforded us all coupled with the idea that a vaccine was just around the corner that allowed us to get hit so hard this time.
But in reality, vaccines are not a panacea, they are just another weapon in the considerable arsenal required to keep Covid-19 at bay now while we plot a more holistic course towards a new "old normal", so to speak.
And the first step towards that is ensuring that more people think like the lady at the market who barred my entry, and less of us attempt to skirt these vital, potentially life-saving rules.
Anucha Charoenpo is news editor at the Bangkok Post.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org