PM Prayut met his economic advisors last month to discuss how to revive the country's woeful economy. Credit: PM Prayut Chan-o-cha FB Page

EDITORIAL: Govt needs more decisive action and priority against the third wave of Covid-19

With the UK’s fast-spreading variant at a doorstep and possibly more virulent ones from other parts of the world, more decisive action and priority are desperately needed for the country, not an overwhelming fear of the woeful economy as demonstrated

Finally, the third wave of Covid-19 has prematurely arrived. According to Professor Dr. Yong Poovorawan, the government’s advisor, it has hit the country while the second wave has not yet subsided. So, he called it “an overriding” wave of Covid-19 infections.

What is more of concern is the fact that it has come with the highly contagious variant from the UK, which could have a very high transmission rate, up to 170 times here, when taking into account the variant’s fast spreading ability as well as the local conditions including the ongoing high infection rate and the currently lax measures being implemented by the government, according to Dr. Yong, Head of the Center of Excellence in Clinical Virology at the Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University, who has helped decoding the variant’s genes before confirming it to the public.

This is the first time that the UK variant has been detected in local transmissions, under which a number of party-goers in Thonglor-Ekamai area have been infected since late last month, as such kicking off the third wave of Covid-19 infections.

What puzzled the medical experts like Dr. Yong is there has not been any clear clues so far how it has got here finally. Previously, the variant was successfully intercepted among imported cases put under state quarantine.

So, Dr. Yong suggested at the press briefing on Wednesday that he preferred to see the government put its guard up, at least declaring maximum control zones over five provinces, where the variant is spreading rapidly, including Bangkok, now the disease’ epicenter. The proposal has actually been recommended to it by the Public Health Ministry’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC), the first body to assess the Covid-19 situations.

“I must say I am very worried about the situation now. I still have no idea where it was from, despite our efforts to contain it,” Dr. Yong had said during the press briefing.

Despite the warning signaled by such a top expert and virologist, the government seems to choose the other approaches. It has decided to refrain from declaring the maximum control zones over those provinces, which would rather see stricter enforcement of disease control over some risk prone activities and venues, but instead focusing specifically on entertainment venues by declaring them closed for the time being.

In Bangkok, over 195 entertainment venues in three main districts are declared closed for at least 14 days. More of those in 40 provinces would face the same fate.

Other business than that would be rested with the provinces to decide upon the authority given, according to the Center of COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA). Domestic travels, meanwhile, are also allowed ahead of a long holiday of Songkran.

Since the second round of the Covid-19 outbreaks, starting in mid-December in Samutsakhon province where seafood traders and migrant workers there were first infected, the government has been hanging in the balance for its budgetary and economic administration.

This is because the restrictions imposed in the first round including curfews hurt the economy so much. So, in the second round the government refused to declare any of such restrictions, but tried to focus on specific zones to control the outbreaks. As a result, business activities can resume and continue, including entertainment venues.

The only difference this time is it’s not the same variant that it has ever fought against, but a much more transmissible one. By now, we have no idea how many infected persons have travelled out of Bangkok to their hometowns, and how many more would follow during the Songkran.

The maximum control zoning is thus an appropriate and proportional proposal. It would at least help control the spread of the virus at the sources.

Amid frustration caused by Covid-19, weathering the impacts and consequences is a tough task, but it’s the government’s job to do the best.

Taking all factors into consideration as having learned from the second round of the outbreaks is seemingly the right approach, but weighing and juggling them to strike a balance is another issue.

With the new variant that can spread fast at a doorstep and possibly more virulent ones from other parts of the world, more decisive action and priority are desperately needed for the country, not an overwhelming fear of being haunted by the woeful economy as demonstrated by the government.

This is not yet to mention how lenient the government has demonstrated in suppressing “undesirable” business activities despite the fact that they have principally contributed to the outbreaks of the virus in all rounds, from boxing stadiums, gambling dens, migrant smuggling, and including these entertainment venues.

As the third wave has struck with the same mistake repeated, what additionally needs to be taken into account is the people’s patience, which over time has been wearing thin.