With Bangkok and 12 other provinces now in lockdown and record numbers of daily cases still being reported, the Thai PM on Wednesday was marshaling his forces for a battle against the disease which he hopes to see won over the next four to six weeks. He urged provincial authorities to be prepared to provide treatment to those afflicted and warned against selfish entrepreneurs hoarding oxygen tanks, test kits and medicines that will be vital in the days ahead.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha was told by provincial governors in areas hit by the current COVID-19 wave on Wednesday that there was no sign, so far, of a fall-off in any of the provinces. At the online video meeting between the PM, key ministers, officials and governors of 12 provinces, the Minister of Public Health promised that from August, the kingdom will have access to at least 10 million vaccine doses a month with the latest evidence suggesting that the programme is progressing at a slower pace.
Thailand reported another record number of infections for COVID-19 on Wednesday morning at 16,533 cases and 133 deaths.
At the same time, Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha held a Zoom video conference attended by top officials and the provincial governors of 12 provinces which are currently under heightened lockdown orders, to discuss and review the current situation.
PM working from home mid-week at a military compound in Bangkok as he chaired meeting
The Prime Minister was reported to be working from his residence within a military compound in the centre of Bangkok.
The government has ordered public officials to work from home for now while strongly encouraging similar measures on the private sector.
The meeting was also attended by the Minister of the Interior, Anupong Paochinda, the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of the Interior Chatchai Phromlert, the Secretary-general to the Prime Minister, Disat Hotrakit, and the Director of the Department of Disease Control at the Ministry of Public Health Dr Opas Karnkawinpong.
No governor could report a dip in cases
During the meeting, the Prime Minister asked the governors present if any province had noticed or recorded a tail off in infections over the past two to three days but there was a muted response to his query.
The meeting heard from Minister of Public Health Anutin that he was confident, from August, Thailand will have at least 10 million vaccine doses per month with which to progress the kingdom’s vaccination programme.
The campaign to vaccinate adults over 18 years of age is due to begin later this week.
Slow progress on vaccinations with only 17.7% receiving the first dose to July 25th and only 128,226 doses recorded in two days from July 23rd
The latest figures for Thailand’s vaccination programme are from the 25th of July and show only 128,226 doses were administered from the 23rd July to the 25th July according to data supplied by the public health services and the Department of Disease Control.
With a marginal increase for those who received the first jab to 17.7% of the population from 17.4% two days previously. Only 5.2% of the population had been fully vaccinated at that point.
Concern about testing at large private concerns as Federation of Thai Industries warns that export gains could be undermined if factory production stalls
The Prime Minister expressed his concern about testing within the private sector and in particular within factories that are operating bubble and seal controls where workforce movement is restricted to sites.
The lockdown and rising levels of infection are threatening output in a region that is home to many manufacturies particularly Chachoengsao and Samut Prakan provinces.
This follows a warning from Kriengkrai Thiennukul, the Vice Chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries last week that Thailand’s sole remaining pillar of economic growth could be under threat as factories and export producers struggle to test their workforces which places an enormous strain in terms of cost.
Requested provinces to submit budget requests if required for medical supplies to meet demand
The PM stressed to the governors present to make sure that they have enough medicines such as the drug Favipiravir to treat those infected and showing symptoms of the disease.
He proposed that provincial leaders make known to him any additional budget requirements sought by their officials to meet the needs of an adequate government response.
He also referred to supplies of oxygen and Antigen test kits and warned that action would be necessary against greedy business people who sought to capitalise or make a profit out of the misfortune of others at this time.
Hope for an improvement in four to six weeks
General Prayut accepted that no imminent reduction in cases looked likely, at this point, although he expressed a hope that perhaps in four to six weeks, there may be an improvement.
He suggested officials monitor the trend of the Delta variant and the latest waves in countries outside Thailand to help gain intelligence on any possible pattern of behaviour of the virus.
A more optimistic tone was sounded by Deputy Minister of Public Health Satit Pitutacha on Wednesday as he referred to Tuesday’s cabinet meeting with the Prime Minister.
He said the government leader had expressed a view that improvement may even be sooner than that, in the next two to four weeks.
It follows a comment by Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CSSA), in recent days, that there should be a falloff in infections seen soon in Bangkok which has been at the epicentre of this outbreak.
Lockdown may be tightened with a review in 14 days says Deputy Minister of Public Health Dr Satit
However, Dr Satit pointed out that the current lockdown and curfew will be reviewed again in 14 days.
He indicated that a decision may be made to tighten measures against the virus at that point.
He also highlighted the government’s effort to transport those suffering from COVID-19 out of Bangkok and back to their home provinces.
Covid Express heads North daily
A regional, northbound rail service dubbed the Covid Express operated by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) commenced with a limited number of passengers heading north from the city this week.
Those selected for the daily train journey include people with mild or moderate symptoms of the disease.
The first train left Rangsit Station on Tuesday morning, carrying 137 passengers heading for Ubon Ratchathani with stops at Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Surin and Si Sa Ket.