07/03/2021

THAILAND DAILY

NEWSPAPER / MAGAZINE / PUBLISHER

thailand-faces-its-darkest-hour-against-covid-19-virus-as-vaccinations-now-due-to-begin-in-march

Thailand faces its darkest hour against Covid-19 virus as vaccinations now due to begin in March

Prime Minister appeals to the public to lie low for 14 or 15 days as his government tries to avoid plunging the economy into meltdown with a full national lockdown while speeding up plans to vaccinate the population with the first vaccine jabs now expected sometime in March using China’s Sinovac product. The country recorded a record 745 cases on Monday but this was revealed to be underreported with extra cases in Samut Sakhon bringing the total to 1,215 cases. By May, Thailand should also be producing the UK Swedish firm AstraZeneca’s vaccine here.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha appealed to Thais to stay at home for now as the government seeks to break the spread of the current outbreak while avoiding a disastrous national lockdown. In the meantime, vaccinations against the virus are due to begin sometime in March with the Chinese Sinovac vaccine. General Prayut revealed on Tuesday that a further 35 million doses have been secured with a Thai company already geared up to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine in Pathum Thani.

thailand-darkest-hour-covid-19-vaccinations-due-march
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha is pleading with the public to stay at home, where at all possible, as the government strains to prevent another catastrophic lockdown while also bringing forward a vaccination programme. General Prayut said on Tuesday that more than half of the population would be vaccinated as he announced a further 35 million vaccine doses had been procured bringing the total to 63 million. The first to be administered will be the Chinese Sinovac jab which is scheduled to be rolled out in March.

Thailand’s Prime Minister has made a plea to the Thai public to stay at home, at this time, when the virus is spreading fast within the kingdom particularly in the provinces surrounding Bangkok after a large outbreak occurred in the province of Samut Sakhon, to the Southwest of the capital, in mid-December.

On Monday, the country reported 745 cases of the disease with one new death, a 56-year old man who died only a few days after testing positive for the disease. He was initially admitted to hospital on December 28th and had underlying health conditions.

Latest victim visited Klong Toey area of Bangkok

The spokesman for the Centre for Covid 19 Situation Administration, Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, said that the man had been in Samut Prakan province, a red zone for the disease as well as the Klong Toei area of central Bangkok.

The spread of the disease has now extended to 54 provinces after a case was reported in the seaside city of Hua Hin in Prachuap Khiri Khan province, by public health officials there.

‘We don’t want to lock down the entire country because we know what the problems are, so can you all lockdown yourselves?’ Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha said on Tuesday. ‘This is up to everyone, if you don’t want to get infected just stay home for 14 to 15 days. If you think like this then things will be safe, easier for screening.’

Government pushing back against lockdown plans

The Prime Minister and senior officials at Government House are trying to avoid, if possible, a full shutdown of the country. The PM began the week by countermanding orders from the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority that would have closed all sit down restaurants in Bangkok allowing them to operate during daytime hours.

On Monday, Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha appeared to announce a lockdown of five provinces on social media to limit the virus. These were Samut Sakhon, Chon Buri, Chanthaburi, Rayong and Trat.

However, this was rejected on Tuesday by the Prime Minister who spoke to the press before a crucial cabinet meeting at the seat of government in Bangkok. 

The Deputy Prime Minister and the government’s key legal adviser Wissanu Krea-ngam also came out against the proposed 5 province lockdown which included plans for checkpoints and restricted travel.

DPM Wissanu said that there were already enough measures in place to counteract the risk posed by the disease in these areas and that movement of local people would not be restricted.

Monday’s numbers were actually over 1,200

The record number of cases announced on Monday of 745 infections, in fact, should have been even higher after the public health office in Samut Sakhon province revealed that 470 cases of infection there had not been included in the daily tally. This would have brought the figure into treble digits or 1,215 cases unlike anything seen in Thailand before.

The government is making a determined effort on this occasion to avert a second national lockdown like that seen in April 2020. 

At the same time, it is also trying to find financial support for businesses already impacted by the latest restrictions which have seen pubs and entertainment centres closed with restaurant opening hours and seating hostelries restricted in Bangkok and provinces adjacent to the capital.

Government fighting on three fronts

Senior economists in the kingdom have warned that another lockdown, such as that seen last year, would be catastrophic for the kingdom’s prospects and represent a meltdown of the government’s current plans to rescue the economy by the end of the year.

Thai ministers find themselves fighting a battle on three fronts to protect the population and halt the spread of the virus, to keep the economy ticking over with added supports to businesses already suffering from this current crisis and to speed up the country’s mass vaccination plans which is, right now, the exit strategy that not only Thailand but the world is clinging to.

Chinese Sinovac vaccine heads up the government’s inoculation programme starting in March

Over the weekend, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul announced that vaccinations in Thailand would now begin sooner rather than later when he announced two million vaccines had been secured which were only subject to Food and Drug Administration regulation and cabinet approval of a price tag of ฿1.17 billion.

On Monday, it was revealed that these vaccines were of Chinese origin.

Over half the Thai population will be vaccinated

The Sinovac vaccine will become the first to be administered in Thailand despite the kingdom’s contract with UK Swedish firm AstraZeneca to deliver 26 million doses of its vaccine, expected to arrive in May this year. 

In addition, the kingdom is reported to have begun manufacturing the AstraZeneca vaccine through a Thai firm, Siam BioScience, at a plant in Pathum Thani. Vaccines from this source are expected to also be coming on stream in May with a plant capacity of 15 million doses per month.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister also revealed that a further 35 million doses have been secured but did not elaborate on the source.

This would bring the total contracted for by Thailand to 63 million doses.

‘I have also ordered another 35 million doses and most of the population are expected to be vaccinated,’ Prime Minister Prayut said.

Vaccination progress to be rolled out in March with frontline health staff and village health officials among the first to be offered the immunity jab

The Chinese vaccine which was created by using inactive coronaviruses, in a tried and trusted technique, is designed to trigger the body’s immune system. It is expected to be rolled out in Thailand sometime in March. 200,000 initial doses are due at the end of February with 800,000 due at the end of March and a further 1 million doses in April.

The government is promising to prioritise frontline health workers and village health officials in the first wave of vaccination.

Sinovac used by Turkey where according to a trial, it had an efficacy of 90%, Chinese firm claims 79%

The Sinovac vaccine has been used by Turkey and Brazil in recent weeks with mixed reaction. In Turkey, a clinical trial using a small sample of over 1,300 study participants showed the vaccine was 90% effective. 

The Turkish health minister was enthusiastic about his country’s decision to use the Chinese vaccine at this time. ‘Now we are sure that the vaccine is effective and safe on Turkish people,’ said Fahrettin Koca.

Of those involved in the test, 26 people who were given a placebo developed the virus while only 3 were infected of those inoculated with the vaccine. The numbers used in the trials of the leading western vaccinations were up to 35 times larger and produced a 95% efficacy result.

In Brazil, a press conference to disclose the result of tests there were rescheduled after reports emerged that the efficacy of the vaccine was only 50%. Sinovac refused to comment on either the study in Turkey or the one in Brazil.

The Chinese company which manufactures the product, Sinopharm, claims it has an efficacy rate of 79%.

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Further reading:

Thailand mobilising towards faster vaccinations as the Covid virus pandemic reaches new heights

Confirmed: Covid-19 second wave is here with the new outbreak seen as more serious than the first one

Covid-19 situation worsens as local infections now spread to 38 provinces with more red zones on the map

PM criticises employers for using cheap, illegal migrant labour as officials remain on high alert

Prime Minister warns employers and bent officials over illegal migrant workers but calls for calm for now

Samut Sakhon flare-up spreads to other provinces but will be brought under control say top officials

Covid 19 outbreak in Samut Sakhon sees province placed under lockdown measures by local officials

Luxury party hotel in Myanmar’s Shan State is the epicentre of Thailand’s current Covid 19 outbreak

Minister Anutin attacks infected Thai women whose actions set back plans to reopen the kingdom’s borders

Myanmar border on alert after shock local Covid positive test on Friday is linked to local smuggling trade

Thai army strengthens security along the Burmese border to defend against super infectious strain of Covid 19

Man visiting from Laos had TB, not Covid 19 as Udon Thani governor confirms no trace of Covid 19 virus

Top doc wants a halt to all foreigners entering Thailand again warning of a 2nd virus breakout due to the influx

Broken-hearted Swede fears history will repeat itself as shock parting left him stranded in Laos for 4 months

92% of suicides due to the virus are among the self-employed according to expert research group in academia

Foreigners arriving in Thailand in now increasing numbers targeted by a fake news campaign online

Visa amnesty agreed as emergency decree is linked to the controlled entry of Thais and Foreigners

Homeless people sheltering in closed Pattaya beer bars – Pattaya News report

Doors closed to a European diplomat who came from the airport to a Bangkok condo building after flight

Entry for privileged groups tightened up as flack swirls over Egyptian military’s flying visit to Rayong

Mystery Egyptian military flight revealed as exposing Thailand to the Covid 19 virus in Rayong

Agony for stranded western foreigners as ‘Fast-track’ Chinese charter flight jets in from Shanghai

Move to prevent a tourism wipeout as minister pushes 3 phase plan especially targeting Chinese tourists

IATA calls on countries like Thailand to think again over quarantine schemes and travel curbs costing jobs

Only 2,000 foreigners have yet registered to be reunited with love ones as tourism to also reopen

Key ministries met on Sunday to discuss access by foreigners to the kingdom and a tourism relaunch

Thai public says No to foreign tourism and also predicts 1 to 2 years for travel to return to normal

Only hope for foreigners locked out of Thailand as easing continues with strict controls on entry

Ministers suggest an easing of the travel ban for some tourists but a continued state of emergency

Thailand plans to prioritise Asian countries in its search for safe Covid 19 ‘tourism bubble’ partners

Australian envoy says his embassy and others continue to work on helping stranded foreigners get home

Access to Thailand opening up. It will be cautious, quite expensive with tight regulation and ministry controls

Thai security chief suggests a full reopening of the kingdom to international flights from July 1st

New normal for foreigners seeking access to Thailand even after flights resume if virus persists as a factor

Growing concern and frustration among a large number of expats cut off from their families in Thailand

Australian man’s heartbreak cut off from his Thai wife – begs to be included on repatriation flights

Thailand extends ban on inbound flights until July 1st at the earliest – blow to foreigners and tourism

Spouses of Thai wives down under denied access to limited repatriation flights from Australia this week

Australian retiree is spending his own pension money on supporting the poor during the crisis in Chiang Mai

About the Author

Carla Boonkong is a magazine writer who writes extensively about woman’s issues in Thailand. One of her key subjects is the story of Thailand’s growing influence in the world and the role played by Thai women in the process. She is now a staff writer with Thai Examiner.com in Bangkok. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.

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