PM stands at jab crossroads

PM stands at jab crossroads

Eighteen months on from its inauspicious Thai debut, Covid-19 has ultimately proven to be a formidable adversary.

Countries rich, poor and those in between, were all forced into unknown territory by the emergence of arguably the world's first truly global pandemic.

It been a period which has tested the mettle of leaders and their governments, with those unseated by ineffectual reactions just further collateral damage of a virus that has spared few. Equally, there have been some beacons of light among those charged with leading us out of these dark days, leaders who have inspired hope, earnt trust and united nations with their swift action and ability to connect with their publics.

Unfortunately for Thailand, these latter qualities have been in short supply since the arrival of the third wave in April which saw the kingdom pitted against the virus at close quarters for arguably the first time.

And it hasn't taken long for public exasperation to emerge over the government's vaccination programme which has suffered multiple delays and been promoted in a confusing and often changing manner.

Just a week after the rollout began, scores of hospitals are reported to have postponed appointments leading to a collective sense of panic as cases continue to mount. The French embassy is not alone in having already begun to implement its own contingency plans to procure and provide vaccines for French citizens living in the Land of Smiles. Some US residents, too, have begun making representations to their own administration for the same provisions.

Even worse, the government's Covid jab rollout has turned into an ugly altercation. This past weekend, Public Health Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul went into blame shifting game with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) over the vaccine chaos.

So, while other governments, with their own domestic rollouts going smoothly, move to aid nationals abroad, Thailand is left with the BMA and city hospitals blaming the health ministry for not providing sufficient stocks, which in turn has seen Mr Anutin throw the ball right back at them with charges of mismanagement.

None of which is getting anyone anywhere. The country needs the squabbling to end and the teamwork to begin. And that must start at the top, with the onus now falling on the prime minister to take control of the situation for the sake of the health and safety of the nation and its citizens.

At a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha trotted out the same platitudes, promising again that 100 million shots will be jabbed into the arms of Thais by the end of the year, but failed to provide any meaningful facts regarding actual shipments and deliveries.

The nation would be better served by a dose of honesty over the delay in local production of the AstraZeneca formula, particularly as this has always been trumpeted as the government's silver bullet should Covid-19 take hold domestically -- which it has.

Always happy to play the role of benevolent custodian with multiple state handouts accompanied by musical compositions of his creation, now is the time for Gen Prayut to show the world what kind of a leader he really is. To that end, he may have to tell Thais a few inconvenient truths about what has happened to their vaccines and the much-trumpeted national rollout.

Leadership begins and ends with integrity, and there is still time for the government to emerge from the pandemic with its reputation intact.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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