A leader's pride comes before a Covid-19 fall
As a leader, what makes you proud?
Does it make your day seeing people, young and old, camp out on the streets all night to queue for a Covid-19 test?
These people waited from 9pm the night before to about 8am the next day, staying in line all night just to see if they'd get lucky and get the day's limited tests.
The chance is probably one in 10, if not less. If it rains, they have to endure it. If the day's quota is used up, they have to come back tomorrow, and queue all over again.
Many are in high-risk groups, having been exposed to positive cases either at home or work. They had to get themselves checked but the free testing, offered to a few hundred people a day when thousands need to be screened, is becoming increasingly difficult.
Some may not return at all. They may have died while waiting. There is news about these tragic deaths everyday.
As their leader, do you feel sad, or relieved?
From your high-up position, you may have enjoyed a surge of patriotism when you flashed the V sign and told the public to listen to the authorities, to keep fighting so that "we" will win against the pandemic "together".
Did you get emotional when you came across news about some of us who have kept fighting to the bitter end?
People who lost their careers, their incomes, their livelihoods, even their loved ones as they dutifully complied with your orders? The myriad of restrictions that kept piling up on them without proportionate help or compensation?
There were also people who found themselves at the end of the road and took the final plunge. Do you feel honoured that they listened to you and followed your orders until they perhaps had nothing left? Do you feel their pain? Or are they but collateral damage in your bigger fight against the coronavirus?
As the situation's commander, will you tell your fellow leaders that numerous doctors and nurses passed out as they worked tirelessly in their stuffy PPE suits? That many hospitals had to appeal for donations to buy equipment for the growing number of Covid-19 ICU patients? That frontline medical workers are warning that the public health system is breaking down when the government is insisting there is enough of everything?
Do you also think the medical staff are being "selfish" for demanding booster shots after more than 800 personnel contracted the virus despite receiving the recommended two shots of Sinovac vaccines?
Have you ever tasted bitterness in your mouth when you stated that Sinovac, which the government keeps buying even though its efficacy in preventing death and severe symptoms, especially against the fast-spreading Delta variant, is in doubt?
A 30-year-old nurse and a doctor died of Covid-19 last week even though they had received two shots of the government's preferred vaccine. Are their deaths aberrations?
Other leaders would at least feel awkward about news that people had to compete to make reservations for their own vaccines.
Reuters last week dispatched a story about the Thai "fight for vaccines", marvelling at how we snapped up reservations for mRNA vaccines offered at a price of more than US$100 (3,261 baht) on the e-commerce platform Shopee in minutes.
These are people who have the means to do so. But there are millions who are still waiting to get their first shot when the government keeps claiming it has bought 150 million doses. Where are the vaccines then when statistics show only 12 million doses have been given so far and only 3.2 million people or 4.7% have been fully vaccinated?
And all those photos showing people who have been confirmed to have Covid-19 lying around waiting to be admitted. Such hopeless scenes should be associated with war-torn nations or Hollywood movies rather than this country that has just thrown open its doors to foreign tourists in the hope of gaining tourism income.
Under your watch citizens who are entitled to appropriate healthcare services from the state especially in times of an epidemic have to turn to online influencers and celebrities to help them gain access to medical treatment.
Some of the volunteers were seen breaking down in tears when they heard people thanking them for the help they no longer needed because the waiting patients had passed away. Are these incidents comedy to you? Is that why you can still laugh and joke around with your teammates when updating our desperate and sorrowful nation about the latest situation?
You must regard it as a show of your magnanimous spirit when you donated three months of salary to help Covid-19 sufferers. The gesture amounted to some 370,000 baht, not even enough for a few days of body bags.
Looking back, what do you see? A blaze of glory? As the country's leader, do these travesties really make you proud?
Atiya Achakulwisut is a Bangkok Post columnist.
Columnist for the Bangkok Post
Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.