EDITORIAL: Thai society needs to get serious with “Smart Control and Living with Covid-19”

To live with Covid-19 safely, it’s no longer about medical care alone to rely on, but also public health and social measures as well as economic interventions that the people and all sectors concerned have to have a role

There are no longer words like “New Normal” used by the government’s Covid-19 Situation Administration Center (CCSA). They have now been replaced with even more jargon and cliches like “Smart Control and Living with Covid-19”.

Whatever they are, the underlying fact is we here have to live with Covid-19 for some time just like anywhere in the world until we can get “universal” vaccines against all of its variants. Hence, public health and social measures are as critically important as Covid-19 vaccines to help guard people against the disease.

The government seems to realise this fact well after having been through a hard time dealing with the third and fourth waves over the past four or five months. While daily infection cases have surged beyond 20,000 a day during all those months, the government has just struggled to get sufficient vaccines for the people.

In mid-August, these measures were hence stepped up and first introduced to the public with new words like “Universal Prevention”, “Covid Pass”, and a few others. And since, they have been elaborated more and packaged along with other public health and disease control measures under the new concept of “Smart Patrol and Living with Covid-19”.

“Worldwide, it is widely accepted now that Covid-19 constantly mutates and spreads rapidly. In several places, it becomes endemic. So, the realistic goal to deal with it is not eradication, but living with it safely and in a balanced manner.

“The CCSA as such has endorsed a new strategy called “Smart Control and Living with Covid-19”, which will help guide the country’s disease control to strike a balance between public health and safety and the economy more than ever,” PM Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha had stepped out to explain the concept by himself in late August when it was first introduced.

Regardless of “New Normal”, this is the first time that measures to deal with Covid-19 have been introduced in a comprehensive manner. If successful, we will see prevention measures going along with disease control as well as Covid-19 response and treatment in order to deal with Covid-19, plus economic rehabilitation.

Under the concept, as explained by the CCSA, this new disease control approach has been stepped up from what previously implemented so as to be more comprehensive to ensure that people can live safely while still pursuing their businesses and lives.

It has become the government’s new strategy and goal amid the ongoing outbreak with the key ideas of shifting the perspectives, adjusting strategies concerned, boosting confidence, and recovering in a balanced and safe manner, according to the CCSA.

Under the proposal made by the Public Health Ministry, this comprehensive disease control and prevention strategy is divided into four different approaches; prevention, disease control, response and treatment, and economic rehabilitation.

Under disease prevention, sufficient vaccination and easy access to antigen testing are introduced as key success.

Under disease control, the state’s roles, businesses operators, and the people are in the focus. While the state is required to supervise measures concerned, business operators will have to comply with the “Covid-free Setting” of Covid-free Environment, Covid-free Personnel, and Covid-free Customers. The people, meanwhile, will be encouraged to take the Universal Prevention, or comprehensive personal care measures ranging from mask-wearing to social distancing.

Under the Covid-19 response and treatment approach, comprehensive public health systems are developed and put in place including the Home Isolation and Community Isolation to help absorb asymptomatic patients so as to help relieve the hospitals’ burden. Other kinds of hospitals including field hospitals will also be in support of primary care.

Last but not least is economic rehabilitation which will be in place to take care of the impacts and those affected.

This shifting trend of living is actually nothing new as several countries too are trying to adjust themselves to live with Covid-19 similarly. Singapore, for one, actually introduced this concept months before and is in an experimental stage. It can be said that the trend has become an acceptable course to follow. The only challenge that remains is whether we can successfully pursue it as the concept is quite complicated and full of various measures to implement.

But the government has been on the right track. It then must make sure that it successfully gets the concept across so that people can understand it and take action.

From now on, Thai society needs to get serious with “Smart Control and Living with Covid-19”. To live with Covid-19 safely, it’s no longer about medical care alone to rely on, but also public health and social measures as well as economic interventions that the people and all sectors concerned too have to have a role.