The CM-Chana application is being introduced at Chiang Mai Airport to help track passengers entering Chiang Mai. Credit: Chiang Mai International Airport

EDITORIAL: The severe second round of Covid-19 outbreaks needs a serious take on “undesirable” economic activities

The second round of widespread Covid-19 outbreaks is putting the country to test, whether it is capable of striking a balance between economic impacts and public health safety

241 is the latest figure of new local infection cases of Covid-19 reported today, far surpassing the peak of the first infection round which had exploded in mid-March (188).

Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, Spokesperson of the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), has been observing the trend among with public health executives in several meetings, and he himself has conceded that the infection trend in this round is worrying, citing the latest scenarios projected by the disease control team that if nothing is done in maximum control and controlled zones, the number of new infection cases could be over 10,000, or even up to 18,000_per day, in the next two weeks.

The moderate scenario with measures instructed and implemented at the moment would still see thousands of new cases, up to 8,000 per day, possibly topping up the total number quickly and putting the public heath capacity at risk, according to Dr. Taweesin.

The fact is the government has to weigh in economic impacts in case it imposes immediate and strong measures like lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus, and so far it has decided to still allow people’s traffic and movements so that they can continue their daily businesses and activities.

In other word, the country is in a dilemma, and it needs a very careful and thorough consideration for every step to take from now on.

It’s agreed that the government has to take economic impacts into account especially for strong measures it would be implementing, but the lesson in the first round tells us that we have a choice to make.

In fact, the government and public health officials came up with quite effective criteria to help guide disease control management in order to deal with the virus in the first round. Besides focusing on public health risks, it did assess and classify the risks based on economic assessments too.

That means different economic activities were assessed and classified along with public health risks and capacity in order to decide what measures should be implemented in certain periods of time.

That happened during the periodical relaxations of the strict lockdown, and it helped the government to relax the strict rules step by step and put the country down from the hike of the outbreak quite smoothly.

This round is more challenging, but it does not mean that the country should go extreme one way or another_being too feared of economic impacts, or being too scared of new infections.

It already has knowledge and experience. Thus, it does have choices, though being in a dilemma.

Such the economic assessments should be brought back to help in a decision making against the spread of the disease, and “undesirable” business activities should be subject to serious consideration.

First and foremost to go dormant should be the so-called “grey or black” business activities that are being accused as the sources of the widespread outbreaks at the moment.

This just needs a decisive decision and a clear vision to differentiate what is necessary and what is not.