Covid reality not as rosy

Covid reality not as rosy

On Monday evening, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced in a televised broadcast that the government will reopen the country in November. The decision, which he described as a "small but important step", will see fully vaccinated tourists from 10 low-risk countries allowed to enter Thailand without having to quarantine.

Furthermore, the PM said the government is preparing to allow the consumption of alcoholic drinks in restaurants and other entertainment venues on Dec 1.

The announcement should have delighted the public. After all, after 18 months of despair, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. On the contrary, however, yesterday's announcement raised eyebrows, with many people questioning if the country is truly ready to reopen to foreign visitors.

If recent figures from the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) are to be believed, then it seems the country is indeed ready to reopen.

Based on the CCSA's recent updates, the worst of the outbreak seems to be over, with daily new infections down to around 10,000 from about 21,000 back in August. Deaths have also dropped below 100 cases per day, down from around 250 each day two months ago. As a result, hospitals now have enough beds and resources to deal with new patients.

The vaccine shortage that has dogged Thailand seems to have been resolved too.

Gen Prayut said vaccine deliveries have jumped threefold since the start of the year -- and by the end of the year, he claimed, 170 million doses would have been shipped to Thailand, exceeding the government's initial target.

The Ministry of Public Health also said they have received the first batch of 8.5 million Lepu antigen test kits they had ordered from China, which will be distributed to communities in high-risk areas. The ministry also said it is poised to bring in more sets.

However, several issues suggest the reality on the ground isn't quite as rosy as the government has claimed.

Early this week, there were reports that the ministry didn't include the 10,000+ infections reported by individuals who self-tested using the ATKs from Lepu. Meanwhile, the number of cases in the far South provinces -- Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala and Songkhla -- have continued to increase.

While Gen Prayut kept bringing up the number of vaccines the country has ordered, he neglected to point out that the national vaccination rate remains low, with only 32% of the population having received two shots of Covid vaccine.

Furthermore, the Public Health Ministry hasn't adequately explained why some people who received Sinovac jabs this year reported a shorter window of protection against Covid that those who received other brands. It also hasn't taken significant steps to inoculate those whose immunity against Covid-19 have decreased.

In reality, the situation on the ground is still worrying. The public is still engaging in risky activities which threaten to spread Covid-19, with recent reports of police arresting drunk partygoers and shutting down gambling dens. Illegal migrants continue to sneak through the porous borders in the West and South.

Make no mistake, the PM made the right call to reopen the country. However, the government hasn't shown to the public that it has prepared to bring the country forward under a "new normal". This explains why instead of being cheerful about the reopening plan, many people remain sceptic and even fearful.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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

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