Covid rules must apply to everyone

Since the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Prayut Chan-o-cha administration has been known to send mixed signals. But the unpredictable nature of the outbreak means the government can no longer afford to mince words when it comes to disease control regulations. She should be firm in emphasizing that her rules apply to everyone.

With the border effectively reopening to international tourism despite the continued rise in new Covid-19 infections – from around 8,000 cases per day in recent months to 10,490 cases per day since yesterday – the entire administration must understand that there is very little room for error. A mistake will not only threaten the viability of the country’s latest attempt to revive the flagging economy, but will also undermine public trust in the government, whose ambiguous approach to containing the disease is beginning to be elitist and unscientific.

The entire administration must understand that “actions speak louder than words” is not just an overused proverb. In fact, in the face of uncertainty, rules and rhetoric mean nothing to the individual actor, who is more likely to make his decision based on social cues from the surrounding environment.

To find an example that would drive the point home, one need not look too far: in the early stages of the Covid-19 epidemic in Thailand, in an effort to prevent infections from spreading in the provinces during During the Songkan holiday season last year, the government launched an intense media campaign to keep everyone at home.

But despite repeated calls from the government for public cooperation, the disease has finally reached rural areas of the country, many of which are not as well prepared to deal with a rise in hospitalizations. Some northeastern provinces were so unprepared that at one point Ubon Ratchathani authorities proposed isolating incoming visitors to the rice fields, in a model they called the “farm hut” quarantine. “.

Novel? Certainly. Human? Certainly not. Even the government-run company ThaiPBS dismissed the idea, citing the report of a migrant worker from Myanmar in Kalasin who “struggled every day to survive, searching for fish and vegetables in the paddy fields for nearly two weeks” while in Kalasin. . the huts, which had no running water or electricity.

Human beings are generally conformists by nature, often seeking security in consensus and numbers. So what prompted thousands of people to defy constant public reminders that they weren’t meant to travel? While pandemic fatigue – where people simply couldn’t bear living under virus restrictions and decided to flout the rules – was certainly a factor for some travellers, inconsistent messaging from the government also played a significant role.

While the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) did issue travel warnings and police set up checkpoints to deter unnecessary travel, other elements within government were undermining – deliberately or not – these efforts. This kind of myopia really needs to go if Thailand is to emerge from the pandemic stronger than before. Unfortunately, more recent events suggest that the government has not only learned its lesson, but is in fact repeating the same mistakes as in the past.

Last week, Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Communicable Diseases Committee agreed to allow the son of a Bhumjaithai MP to marry the daughter of a Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives — “after the newlyweds agreed to reduce the number of guests from 4,000 to 1,000”.

The decision was made by the committee chaired by Deputy Governor Prompiriya Kitnuson, after hearing that the event will take place on a 50 rai lot near a hospital, where guests who test positive before entering can be isolated immediately.

At first glance, all seems well – after all, one could say that the committee would not authorize the wedding unless both families had given assurances that they would bear the risk if the wedding turned out to be a very event. widespread.

But on reflection, the decision to allow marriage effectively creates a two-track system, in which people are allowed to break the rules that apply to the rest of the country, if they can afford to do so.

Not only did it set a dangerous precedent that the country’s elites would no doubt follow, but the decision ignores the risk the event poses to the many people working behind the scenes to make the event happen.

The government needs to think more about the long-term consequences of its actions, no matter how far removed it may seem from the actual virus. To ensure public cooperation and reduce cases, it must also ensure that the rules apply to everyone – not just those who cannot afford to influence decision-makers.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent the Bangkok Post’s thoughts on current issues and situations.

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