Thanathorn floats 'four changes' to deal with Covid

Thanathorn floats 'four changes' to deal with Covid

A woman gets a Covid-19 vaccine at Bang Khae market, one of the clusters in Bangkok, on April 12. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
A woman gets a Covid-19 vaccine at Bang Khae market, one of the clusters in Bangkok, on April 12. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has suggested “four changes” involving vaccine procurement and distribution, relief measures and bureaucratic attitudes to contain the third wave of Covid-19.

The chairman of the Progressive Movement posted the suggestions on the group’s Facebook page on Sunday night.

On vaccine procurement, he applauded the government’s decision to talk with manufacturers other than the two it has already bought from — Sinovac Biotech and AstraZeneca.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday he had instructed officials to talk with Russia and the United States to buy vaccines from them, following criticism about overreliance on the two manufacturers.

“However, we are unlikely to get any of them before the fourth quarter. I fully support the negotiating team and if it manages to speed up deliveries, Thais will stand to gain. The process is already too slow,” Mr Thanathorn wrote.

On vaccine administration, the former MP of the dissolved Future Forward Party believes the process could be improved.

“The vaccination progress to date has reflected a lack of efficiency. The number of doses administered is too low and there appear to be no preparation plans,” he wrote.

As of Monday, Thailand ranked 128th out of 161 countries in the percentage of adults (1%) receiving a first dose, according to data compiled by The Economist.

“With good management, the performance and publicity [of the vaccination] could be improved. I believe we can administer 10 million doses a month [as promised by the government]. But nobody has told us how.”

He urged the government to give more details, possibly estimates of doses per day so that civil society could help where they could.

On relief measures, Mr Thanathorn wrote economic and social measures should go hand in hand during a crisis.

But during the first wave, social measures were harsh but there were no economic measures to cushion them. Many informal workers were abandoned as a result.

“Now, we’re in a semi-lockdown with no accommodating economic measures, a highly risky situation. We’re keeping the lid on businesses but offering operators no relief.”

The solution, Mr Thanathorn wrote, is to spend the remaining 250 billion baht of the 1-trillion-baht stimulus package on two groups.

To prevent unemployment, the government should help small operators by subsidising 50% of their payrolls on the condition that there will be no layoffs.

All affected people should also get 3,000-baht monthly handouts, which, based on the current fiscal position, the government can still afford.

On attitudes, Mr Thanathorn pointed out many people lacked confidence that this government could lead them through the crisis.

This is because of the administration’s feudal mindset that views people as a burden, even though superspreaders have been the elite and the result of discriminatory enforcement of rules.

“The administration must change its mindset and realise that it is their responsibility — people are not the burden.

“They must handle the situation without discrimination and with full disclosure and sincerity in taking care of people,” he wrote.

Mr Thanathorn’s views on Covid-19 solutions, which have drawn both praise and scorn depending on one’s political affiliation, have been widely followed.

His earlier warning that the government was betting on only one horse in buying vaccines from only two manufacturers led to much debate. He faced charges, including royal defamation, as a result of the talk early this year.

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