Govt building Sinovac castles in the sand
What do we do when more and more medical personnel get infected with Covid-19 even though they had received two doses of Sinovac?
We order more Sinovac shots. From two million doses aimed as a stopgap in case there were glitches in the delivery of the main vaccine AstraZeneca, we could be buying more than 47 million doses of Sinovac now.
When people asked why we are spending about 20 billion baht on a vaccine which may offer protection against severe symptoms but whose efficacy against infection is barely above the minimum threshold of 51%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), we became philosophical, somewhat like English mountaineer George Mallory.
When asked why he wanted to be the first to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the legendary climber said: "Because it's there."
Why do we buy more Sinovac jabs even though it is less effective than other vaccines in terms of protection against infection, especially when it comes to the Delta variant predicted to prevail in the country soon? Because it's available.
What do we do when the numbers of new infections and casualties reach new highs again and again?
We changed the background colour of the daily infographic updates, moved the new infections rate to the bottom and made the number small.
Blue is a cool colour. It will make the rising numbers of sick and dead less glaring, more comfortable to the eyes.
As the number of new infections continues to climb, from 3,000 a day to 4,000 and 6,000, the blue background could take on a horrendous hue, however. In the seemingly comfortable blue, what cold intention could have lied? What information could have been hidden?
Why is it necessary to make the sick and the dead appear less noticeable?
The government's Thai Ru Khu Covid or "Aware Thais Fighting Covid" Facebook page showed a creative response to the new highs as well.
Instead of displaying the increasing new infections and casualties first as per custom, the page made the number of people who have recovered and gone home the highlight of its infographic.
The green box showing the good-news numbers are placed prominently at the top. The size is about five times larger than the thin red strip showing the new infections placed at the bottom of the infographic.
The new format spared no place for the casualties. The more than 2,200 people whose lives have been taken away by Covid-19 were simply omitted. Maybe they are unimportant. Maybe they no longer count. These people are already dead anyway.
What do we do when more and more people infected with Covid-19, possibly more than a thousand of them, have had to wait at home since no more hospital beds are available?
What do we do when there are more reports of people who have either died at home while waiting for treatment or taken their own lives out of despair?
We first insisted there are enough hospital beds. When it became obvious that there are not, when doctors and nurses who are on the front lines sweating in their PPE suits, started to show evidence that there really are not enough resources for incoming patients, we said be patient and wait.
We made it difficult to get tested. Hospitals which are obliged to take in people confirmed to be positive apparently had a limited quota each day. Photos showing people queuing up in front of hospitals at 2am or having to wait for days before they could get tested have been widely circulated online.
We also told people who are venting their anger against the allegedly poor handling of the outbreaks to be constructive. Complaining hurts the medical staff. They are working hard. They deserve our support, not blame.
We also repeated the mantra that Thailand is at the top of the world in terms of public health services. We said keep trusting the government and everything will be alright.
What do we do when frontline medical staff and members of the public are demanding that mRNA vaccines be procured as they are scientifically proven to be more efficacious against infection, transmission and new variants?
We said we have the production hub for AstraZeneca right here on our home soil. The technology has been transferred to us. This is sustainable. This is far-sighted. This will ensure that we would have enough vaccines for the populace.
What did we do when the deliveries did not come as planned?
We ordered more Sinovac. We also reopened the country, starting with the Phuket Sandbox. We called it a castle in the sand. It is a very good description of where we are right now.
Columnist for the Bangkok Post
Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.