The government of Thailand is now preparing its citizens for life with Covid, with plans being drafted to relax many restrictions and reopen its borders to vaccinated visitors even as new cases hover around 20,000 a day.
Thailand’s National Communicable Disease Committee on Monday approved a shift in the country’s strategy to “learning to live with Covid-19.” Recognizing the the country will have to learn to live with the virus, according to Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control.
Thailand’s focus going forward will be on containing infections to a level that doesn’t exceed capacity of Thailand’s public-health system.Above all with key measures being total vaccination coverage for vulnerable groups and faster case-tracing on the assumption that everyone can become infected and transmit the virus, he said.
Among the preliminary proposals are easing lockdown rules in September and replication of a tourism-reopening project in October based on a pilot project in Phuket. Other planned measures weren’t announced.
Co-existing with the virus in Thailand
The Employers’ Confederation of Thai Trade and Industry (EconThai) welcomes the government’s easing of lockdown measures starting on Wednesday because relying on a lockdown alone will not flatten the Covid-19 infection curve.
Authorities should follow the UK, Singapore and Japan as a model for how to co-exist with the virus, said Tanit Sorat, vice-chairman of EconThai.
The group does not want to see the government resort to drastic lockdown measures again because they are not always a guarantee for a sharp reduction in daily new infections of Covid-19.
The only thing they guarantee is a heavy blow to the economy, he said, while easing the lockdown is a cure for financial ills.
“Relaxing strict business regulations will help people, especially those in the restaurant and retail segments, regain their jobs,” said Mr Tanit. “It will also increase people’s purchasing power.”
EconThai earlier expressed concern the Thai unemployment rate is likely to increase in the second half this year because of the slow economic recovery and the entry of 300,000 new graduates into the job market.
Learning to live with Covid in Thailand
Meanwhile, Thira Woratanarat, an associate professor at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine, said that the number of new infections being reported doesn’t reflect the real situation given the variants, the omission of cases found using self-test kits and fewer tests being administered.
While conveyed as a strategy shift, the wording on Monday mirrors that of a speech in June by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, in which he said much of the country would be reopened in October “to start reducing the enormous suffering of people who have lost their ability to earn an income.” He called it a “calculated risk” and asked that people “be ready to live with some risk.”
About 8% of the population nationwide has been fully inoculated. Vaccination rates are higher in regions that have reopened under special tourism programs — including the island of Phuket — and those with the worst outbreaks, including Bangkok. Opas said that Phuket’s reopening on July 1 to fully vaccinated tourists showed that if the situation can be controlled, economic activities can be stepped up and people can resume their everyday lives.
Last week, the government said it plans to issue “Thai Covid Pass” to inoculated residents, which would allow access to certain places including restaurants.