Top doctor at Siriraj hospital predicts infections of over 10,000 cases per day as many officials now accept that Thailand finds itself at the mercy of a fourth wave of infection that has already broken out of Bangkok and is spreading throughout the provinces. The government is reacting cautiously as public confidence in it has plummeted and its financial room to manoeuvre is limited. Opposition groups and critics have been quick to take advantage of the situation. In any event, Thailand lacks the financial wherewithal to effect any wide-ranging lockdown measures with the only way forward being to push through with the vaccination programme and also a reopening of the country’s economy in what will be a perilous course for Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha and his government. It is also a course that may see Thailand’s efforts to lure back foreign tourists become a political football.

Controversial Palang Pracharat Party MP Pareena Kraikupt, in the last 24 hours, strongly criticised the deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Public Health Dr Thongchai Kiratihatthayakon for both an emotional and inspiring address to newly assigned doctors in Bangkok on Thursday as they were drafted in to confront record levels of infection and deaths in the capital where a lack of ICU beds and treatment facilities are now forcing doctors into making life and death decisions, a situation that, at the outset of the pandemic, top medical leaders urged the government to avoid. Ms Pareena told Dr Thongchai to remember he was born a man, to avoid emotion and to instead focus on fighting the disease.

Palang Pracharat Party MP Pareena Kraikupt (centre) hit out at a speech made by the deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Public Health Dr Thongchai Kiratihatthayakon (left) after he gave an inspiring and stirring speech on Thursday to 144 newly graduated doctors summoned to Bangkok to fight the escalating outbreak caused by a 4th wave of infection in the city which is now spreading nationwide. The targeted lockdown measures announced by the government last weekend have galvanised opposition to it with protest leaders addressing a crowd outside Government House on Friday (right) calling on General Prayut to be more concerned about opening small restaurants in Bangkok than reopening the country to foreigners.

On Friday, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) in Bangkok announced 6,087 new infections and 61 deaths. This follows 57 deaths announced on Thursday with 53 on Wednesday, all daily records.

It comes after Dr Nithiphat Chiarakun of the Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, last week, confirmed what he thought was a fourth wave of the virus, driven by the Delta or Indian variant of Covid-19, which he predicts will reach over 10,000 cases a day in due course.

More army field hospitals at private sites to plug the gap for seven days in Bangkok says Minister Anutin

The Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, on Friday, announced that he was negotiating with three private sector entities to install army field camps at locations throughout the Greater Bangkok metropolis including a field hospital at the Mongkutwattana Hospital in Lak Si.

Deputy Prime Minister Anutin said his officials were currently focused on providing more beds for the coming 7 days as the crisis is expected to worsen.

Doctors now being forced to do triage and prioritise one patient over another with a shortage of ICU facilities and a surging caseload tipped to go higher

He also gave assurances that there would be no shortage of drugs needed for treating the disease and that officials would be strengthening protocols for patients who are being advised to recuperate at home.

The move by the Ministry of Public Health and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) is a controversial one, going against the best advice of many doctors who did not want to see such a situation develop but, unfortunately, the health service has been left with no alternative as doctors also now find themselves performing triage with ICU facilities and ventilators also in short supply for those with beds in the system.

Man commits suicide after middle-aged bedridden daughter died from Covid-19 at home in Bangkok

The moves by the government come as, on Friday morning, news emerged in Bangkok of an 84-year-old man who had thrown himself from a commercial building in the Ratchathewi area of the city after his 57-year-old daughter died the day before having contracted the Covid-19 virus.

84-year-old Pengki Sae-Tia lost the will to live when medical officials on Thursday confirmed that his daughter, 57-year-old Pranee Hatthasothana, had passed away after it is understood the bedridden woman contracted the disease from a local service provider at the home she shared with her father.

Police Colonel Rattaphol Suwannarat of Phaya Thai Police Station attended the scene of the tragedy at 5 am on Friday morning.

The body of the 84-year-old was found in front of the three-story building on Soi Phaya Nak.

A volunteer rescue unit arrived and carried out a Covid-19 test on the deceased body and found that it was negative for the presence of the virus. The body was sent to Ramathibodi Hospital for an autopsy.

Deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Public Health becomes emotional as he welcomes young doctors to the battle against Covid-19 in Bangkok

A top Thai medical official at the Ministry of Public Health is said to have spoken with a trembling voice at a welcoming ceremony on Thursday for 144 newly graduated doctors summoned from outside the capital last week on the orders of the Prime Minister, General Prayut, as the virus emergency intensified.

Speaking to the new doctors on Thursday, the deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Public Health, Dr Thongchai Kiratihatthayakon, addressed this when he appeared to become emotional as he admitted that Thai people, for the first time, would be dying at home as a result of this pandemic.

‘Now, Bangkok and the surrounding provinces are in a real crisis, patients are beginning to die at home,’ he told his audience of young doctors. ‘We do not want Thailand to be the same as Europe last year when many patients were allowed to die at home because there were no beds at hospitals.’

Move Forward MP supports Dr Thongchai

The powerful speech, given by the top medical official, was raised in parliament by Move Forward Party MP and Progressive Movement leader Rangsiman Rome on Friday as he referred to General Prayut’s visit to Phuket and his ‘sandcastles’ in the air while Thai people were dying and facing an unprecedented crisis.

He defended Dr Thongchai’s comments and heartfelt feelings saying it was understandable when medical professionals were left facing a shortage of ICU facilities and ventilators.

Palang Pracharat Party MP Pareena Kraikupt excoriates the official for sapping morale among doctors and nurses in the ongoing struggle

The comments and address to the new medical recruits, however, were not uniformly praised.

They drew a sharp rebuke from Palang Pracharat Party MP, Pareena Kraikupt, who accused the doctor of undermining the public’s morale, particularly as at the same time, the country was launching its initiative in Phuket to win back its foreign tourism trade.

Ms Pareena reminded Dr Thongchai that he was born a man and said that this meant he should be using his consciousness and critical faculties instead of emotion when attempting to resolve the crisis.

The controversial and outspoken MP for Ratchaburi accused the doctor of discouraging medical practitioners and nurses working within the health system who are now called upon to take up the current challenge which ironically was the theme of Dr Thongchai’s address to the newly graduated practitioners.

She encouraged Dr Thonchai not to fall back on feelings but to fight the Covid-19 disease currently ravaging the country. ‘I would like to send encouragement to the Deputy Permanent Secretary. And don’t become emotional again, instead come out fighting,’ she said.

Stirring and emotional speech to the new young doctors – ‘You are our strength’ said Dr Thongchai

In a stirring and often touching speech to the young medical practitioners, Dr Thongchai compared the current situation and demands placed on doctors and medical professionals to war.

‘In our life, we have never experienced something like World War II but we are now in a war where all countries around the world are struggling to fight against this disease,’ he said. ‘You are our strength.’

However, the deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Public Health highlighted the grave nature of the position that doctors now find themselves in.

4th wave threatens to collapse the public health system as PM orders trainee doctors to Bangkok

‘If we do not do this, many people will be left to die in their homes,’ he told the handpicked team sent from the provinces on their first assignments as qualified doctors. ‘In Thailand, this should not be so, we should not be forced to choose which patient will survive and which one will be left to die.’

PM admitted on Thursday that the country and the government was in ‘trouble’ but called for unity

The spat between the government MP for Ratchaburi and the senior official comes as Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, himself on Thursday, in Phuket for the launch of the ‘Phuket Sandbox’ scheme, admitted the fact that the government and the country were in ‘trouble’. However, the prime minister told his audience that they were not alone. 

In his speech, he referred to limited financial budgets underlined by reports on Friday that the government in 2022 will be setting aside ฿100 billion for loan principal repayments.

This confirms the limited scope of authorities to order any further measures which will limit or damage the economy further.

The only way forward for General Prayut and his ministers right now appears to be a perilous path of weathering the storm caused by the 4th wave of the virus, keeping the vaccination efforts on track and indeed boosting them while still pursuing reopening plans for the kingdom which may bring back some confidence and inward investment.

National Security Council Secretary-general does not see the need for stricter measures as the virus breaks out of Bangkok and begins to spread nationwide

The Secretary-general of the National Security Council, General Natthapon Nakpanich, who runs the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) on a day to day basis, has suggested that top officials, at this point, do not see the need to impose tighter restrictions even as he admitted that a 4th virus wave, driven by the more infectious Delta variant, is underway.

‘There will be no need for more restrictions because we do not want to increase the burden on the people,’ General Natthapon said.

Yesterday, Apisamai Srisangson, the assistant spokesperson for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) told the press that last weekend’s lockdown of construction sites in Bangkok appears to have contributed to the movement of the disease from the capital as many workers defied the bubble and seal measures and left Bangkok notwithstanding the security measures put in place.

Calls for all migrant workers to be legalised as army seals off 575 building sites in Bangkok

She said the responsibility for controlling the new outbreak had now also moved to the provinces.

‘This prompts provinces to issue strict orders for local people and officials to be on the highest alert,’ she said. ‘People are not prohibited from returning home, but they must act responsibly towards their relatives.’

Opposition harnesses public anger in Bangkok over targeted lockdowns and lack of confidence over the government’s handling of the crisis

The comments from the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) officials come as there were strong soundings on social media supported by opposition activists such as the Progressive Movement’s, Pannika Wanich, calling for a campaign of civil disobedience against the government’s targeted lockdown orders and restrictions on public activity to defeat the virus announced last weekend.

This campaign has been gaining momentum and is deeply worrying for government officials.

It highlights rising anger among small businesses and traders in Bangkok over the volte-face by the government last weekend when it again banned in-house dining in restaurants.

The move caught many small and already struggling entrepreneurs off guard and has been taken up by opposition activists buoyed by a groundswell of public unease and lack of confidence in the government’s handling of the crisis.

Small businesses should be reopened before reopening the country to foreign tourists said key protest leader outside Government House on Friday

On Friday at 4 pm, activist leader Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, who was released from prison in mid-May on condition that he would not participate in anti-government protests, led a protest in central Bangkok when he marched on Government House near Phitsanulok Road calling for General Prayut’s resignation.

Also addressing the crowd was Panupong Jadnok while up to 100 riot police kept their distance.

Mr Panupong criticised the government for prioritising the reopening of Thailand to tourists rather than reopening small restaurants in Bangkok that provide a lifeline to small business owners. 

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Further reading:

Phuket tourists fly in but the success of the plan is uncertain due to red tape and needling restrictions

Phuket reopening getting up holidaymakers noses with no less than 5 Covid-19 tests to be paid for

Prayut says Thailand will revert to normal for tourism from mid-October as Phuket set to reopen

Closure of Phuket bars and alcohol restrictions turn off prospective foreign tourist says survey

Blow for travellers: strict rules, no bars and entertainment venues allowed to open in Phuket

Phuket plan is going ahead despite cabinet referral with TAT targeting 3 million visitors by the end of 2021

Phuket still to reopen by July 1st but key economic agency predicts a 99% wipeout in tourist arrivals

Thailand still plans to attract foreign tourists in the last quarter of 2021 targeting 4 million visitors

Wave of calamity scuppers any foreign tourism recovery with even 7% of visitors now in doubt

UK variant driving the 3rd virus wave in Thailand may have come from Phnom Penh in Cambodia

Thai economy is still in reverse despite rising confidence and a virus threatening a 3rd wave

Reopening of Phuket still not officially approved although it is the ideal test for a broader move

Minister urged not to be afraid to borrow in 2021 as fears grow for a quick foreign tourism revival

Economy to rebound as the year progresses driven by exports and a return of mass foreign tourism

Door closing on quick foreign tourism return as economic recovery is delayed to the end of 2022

Phuket’s plan to self vaccinate on hold as Interior Ministry orders private sector out of vaccine deals

Refloat of foreign tourism in the 2nd half of 2021 with vaccines pushed by minister and industry for the sector

Fact – only 6,556 visitors arrived in Thailand last month compared to 3.95 million in December 2019

Desperate foreign tourism business concerns are clinging to straws as they try to survive the crisis

Finance Minister says economy must pivot away from tourism with a switch to S-Curve industries

Thailand’s tourism boss targets thousands instead of millions as public health is prioritised above all

Thailand unlikely to reopen doors to mass-market tourism before the end of 2021 until after a full vaccination