Thailand is entering the mid-crisis phase of the COVID-19 pandemic where public pressure to end restrictions is almost in balance with pressure to end the epidemic. Vaccination, of course, is the solution to stop COVID from spreading and then to assure everyone’s safety.
Thailand’s officials were apparently lulled by the lack of cases and the success of shut-downs and aggressive tracing throughout 2020. It seemed there was plenty of time to figure out a way to get vaccine cost-effectively, and even to develop a vaccine production capacity here in the country. But all hell broke loose just after the New Year. One epicenter after another was discovered, beginning with immigrant shrimp workers in Samut Sakorn near Bangkok, soon followed by outbreaks from careless students in April.
All the hopeful plans for re-starting tourism fell into ruins. One holiday after another came and went with devastating economic results as even domestic tourism dwindled despite cash incentives. The only hope in sight is the now burgeoning vaccination program.
But public suspicion of the effectiveness and side-effects of the most available vaccines is spreading. The current government has shown no improvement in its public-relations skill even though it’s had 7 years to do so. I give them credit, however, for being pretty open about COVID, with daily reports that have not tried to hide or muddle the statistics. The same Public Health Ministry has constantly provided stimulation, supplies, and information via the nationwide Village Health Volunteers program. This has actually reached the grass-roots level in virtually every village.
The latest effort, however, is a mystery to me. Mysteries of this sort tend to be clarified in time, but I cannot quite fathom what is going on with the Khat-grong COVID-19 [คัดกรอง COVID-19] project. It’s a “COVID-19 Screening.” All it amounts to so far is a brief event sponsored by Village Health Volunteers with the local clinic. The event consists of putting up the sign (in the picture accompanying this blog) and a public announcement that the event is going on. If you go, you get your temperature taken. Almost nobody went to the screening in our village the other night. This screening event moves from village to village.
So, it seems like this is mostly about keeping everybody aware that there is action going on and progress is being made against the epidemic. This is necessary because every day we hear of a new outbreak and a new worry. Vaccine is still unavailable to almost everybody except health workers and people with special privileges. New cases every day are still in the thousands. The way a new outbreak is discovered, despite “screenings” such as this, is when people get so sick they go to the hospital.
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Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.