Credit: Public Health Ministry

EDITORIAL: No room allowed for policy inconsistency against Coronavirus

The government must prove its words that it is capable enough to handle the situation and turn a crisis into an opportunity, not the otherway around

As more cluster cases of Coronavirus disease or COVID-19 are detected, and if these suggested anything, it would be that the country now is moving close to the next step feared by medical professionals; Phase 3 of the outbreak, or so-called community transmissions, under which contact tracing becomes harder or even almost impossible, meaning transmissions have become local wihtout any connection with sources outside the country. 

In other word, it’s the full- blown outbreak that every one fears of.

Despite the bleak reality, public health officials as well as medical practitioners nationwide should recieve support and cooperation from the public as they are the ones who have managed to posepone the stage of such the outbreak for around two months already, helping keep the country under the Phase 2 still, under which contact tracing of cases can still be made, thus limiting the infections.

This is despite the fact that Thailand is the first country to have contracted this virus outside China in mid January. So, we see the total number of confirmed cases be kept under 50 before climbing up just within this week, to 82 now as some cluster cases have emerged.

While public health officials and staff have been working hard, at the same time, policy makers have kept inconsistent with their policies against the disease, trying to weigh between economic impacts and public health impacts.

Containment, the forefront meansure recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO), for instance, has been inconsistently applied to different groups of people; be they senior ministers who paid visits to risk prone countries, inbound Thai labours and visitors from overseas, and tourists. 

The Public Health minister apparently tried hard too to balance the impacts when issuing a ministerial announcement early this month on the listing of countries with a high rate of infections in order to impose 14-day containment against any inbound travellers or visitors from those countries. 

The annoucement was abruptly revised within a matter of days, reflecting the indecisive decision against the scope of countries, as the list was cut down from 9 to 4, despite the fact that the annoucement was a good move following the principal ministerial announcement issued in late February to declare the Coronavirus as the country’s 14th “dangerous” communicable disease to allow more public health authority and measures enforced, including days-long containment.

As more and more cluster cases have emerged, pushing the country close to community transmissions soon, there is no room for hesitation and inconsistency in policies to be implemented against the virus.

Apparently trying to downplay public frustrations and criticism that are growing against his government, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha showed how decisive his government was when declaring the set-up of the Coronavirus situation control war-room and a new national committee to supervise it, under which he takes the chair himself, almost the same time when WHO declared the disease as “a pandemic” on Wednesday.

What is next is therefore not any moaning against the public like he did while addressing the situation nationwide on Friday, but rather proving of his words and commitment that his government is capable enough to handle the sitation and turn a crisis into an opportinuity, not the other way around.

The virus now is at everyone’s next door, there is no room and no time for any indecisive and inconsistent mindsets and action to take their places. 

It’s only a clear focus; knowing what to do and daring to do it that will save us all.