Clear Covid confusion

Clear Covid confusion

If there's one thing that we can be sure of, it's that the Covid-19 pandemic is down, but not out.

Over the past two years, we have witnessed the virus mutate into new strains which are capable of outsmarting natural antibodies and vaccines -- dashing everyone's hopes of a quick return to normality.

The latest setback came after the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants emerged, causing a significant increase in Covid infections around the world, including Thailand.

Indeed, the new variant has spoiled the government's plan to declare Covid-19 an endemic disease this week. Instead, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration will ask the government to approve an array of virus-related regulations, including a new mask mandate for indoor and/or poorly ventilated areas, tomorrow.

If approved, the government will have effectively make a U-turn, having just scrapped the mask mandate earlier in the month.

Masks aren't the only thing making a comeback this week, as feared returns following warnings from experts about the risk of a fresh mass outbreak.

Prasit Watanapa, dean of Mahidol University's Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, recently urged the government to ramp up its Covid-19 control measures again.

In fact, Dr Prasit was one of the experts who urged the return of the mask mandate -- a proposal that was quickly picked up by the CCSA.

"We are at a turning point so I'd like policy makers to send a clear signal that the number of new infections is escalating," Dr Prasit was widely quoted as saying.

While many people might squirm at the thought of Covid measures being reinstated, Dr Prasit is right in one aspect -- the government needs to send out a clear message.

At present, the signals coming from government officials are anything but clear and convincing.

Deputy Public Health Minister, Sathit Pitutecha recently insisted there were enough hospital beds to handle an uptick in cases, right around when news reports were saying that other health authorities were seeing a spike in hospitalisations.

Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul -- who has just recovered from Covid which he caught despite having had six vaccine shots -- remains indifferent. He said the current situation is manageable as the nation's vaccination rates are high.

He's right -- Thailand's overall vaccination rates are quite high, with about 76.5% of the population having received two jabs.

That said, vaccination rates among vulnerable groups, for instance, the elderly, remain worryingly low. Plus, only 42.7% of the population have had a booster shot -- way below the 60% target the government had set.

While other nations are preparing to roll out second-generation vaccines, Mr Anutin is choosing to stick with his feel-good narrative. Instead of creating a false sense of security, he should be promoting booster shots and finding ways to ensure risk groups are adequately protected.

The country can't afford another lockdown, so authorities need to tread with the utmost caution if they want to survive beyond the year.

At the moment, the world does not have the vaccines or treatments that can subdue Covid once for all. What the government can do instead is craft well-aimed policies to help ensure that people survive after the pandemic ends.

Editorial

Bangkok Post editorial column

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

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th



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