'Team Thailand' to save nation

'Team Thailand' to save nation

PM to invite business moguls for meeting

Suvarnabhumi airport is nearly deserted on Thursday as the coronavirus pandemic ground air travel. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Suvarnabhumi airport is nearly deserted on Thursday as the coronavirus pandemic ground air travel. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will next week ask the kingdom's top 20 wealthiest businessmen and key leaders to join his so-called "Team Thailand", a group that will shape the fight against Covid-19 in the future as the government considers relaxing anti-virus measures.

During an address to the nation on Friday Gen Prayut stressed the need for unity and cooperation from all parties during the current hardships derived from the coronavirus pandemic.

"The government alone cannot give answers to all questions," he said. "This crisis is big and complicated, so we need to unite and join together as Team Thailand."

The country needs experts from all sectors of society to help, including government officials, academics, members of the health and private sectors, and billionaires who have influence on the economy.

Gen Prayut said he will issue an open letter to 20 of the country's richest billionaires to ask them to join Team Thailand, which will consist of people with great experience and seniority. He said they will be asked how they can help the country and give additional support.

Also, the prime minister said he will meet business associations of all sizes to understand the challenges they face amid the outbreak. Gen Prayut said he wants their opinions, suggestions and demands.

"If we want to overcome Covid-19, we need to accept our weak points and differing opinions," he said.

"We need to work together as a family and change the crisis into an opportunity," Gen Prayut added. "We have to join forces without colours and the political divide."

His address came after the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration noted earlier on Friday that the government may decide next week to relax disease control measures, including possibly reopening some shops and banks.

The kingdom has been under a state of emergency since March. It recorded 28 new cases on Friday, another double-digit increase, which brought the total number of patients infected with the virus to 2,700.

CCSA spokesman Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin said talks with business representatives and health experts are needed after the government revealed its plan to release control measures.

The aim is to ensure effective disease control if some business places are to reopen.

A proposal for Gen Prayut to consider will be submitted.

Premises that could reopen include electronics shops, banks, barbers, salons and general stores.

"There must be measures in place to control the disease," Dr Taweesilp said. "What is important is enforcement and compliance."

He noted that hairdressers and their clients would be required to wear face masks. Clients would have to clean their hands with alcohol before entering a salon and some services would not be offered.

Other measures for salons will cover hygiene and distancing between customers, Dr Taweesilp said.

Overcrowding in shops would be prevented by limiting the number of customers inside at any one time.

"These are possible. These plans have not been approved," Dr Taweesilp said, adding the World Health Organization lists six criteria for countries to check before disease control measures are relaxed.

Thailand has done well in local disease control; patient detection; reducing risk in vulnerable places such as senior homes; safety management in schools, offices and public places; and monitoring inbound travellers.

Dr Taweesilp said the most difficult WHO criterion to meet is increasing people's knowledge and participation in disease control measures.

"People must maintain their hygiene routines like wearing masks and washing their hands," he said. "This must be their new normal."

On Thursday night, more than 900 people were caught breaking the nationwide curfew and gathering ban, DrTaweesilp said.

In other news, a Chon Buri official raised doubts that relaxing business restrictions after April 30 could help revive Pattaya's tourism industry, which is still gripped with Covid-19 fears.

"We cannot base a decision purely on the economic factors," Sinchai Watthanasatsathon, an adviser to the Pattaya Business and Tourism Association, said.

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