Thai authorities unleashes the fear machine for Songkran – OPINION

Today a well-liked English-language news outlet led with a narrative that quotes Dr Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, DG of the Department of Health, who claims the public health ministry is forecasting day by day Covid infections might hit a hundred,000 after Songkran this 12 months.
The Thai public well being ministry, headed up by Minister and deputy PM, Anutin Charnvirakul, has taken a random stab in the dark and is stirring a local weather of uncertainty and fear as Thais prepare for their largest celebration, the Thai New Year, or Songkran.

Each 12 months Thais head out of town, or away from their week jobs, again home to rejoice with family. It’s also the most dangerous time on Thai roads.
Last year’s Songkran did see a big surge of Covid infections directly after the new yr holiday. On April 6, 2021, the CCSA reported 206 Covid infections from the earlier 24 hours. By April 24 the number reached 2,839, previous a June, July and August ‘Delta’ surge which reached 23,418 cases by August 13.
( Well respected there were 26,234 new official infections announced, along with 67 Covid-related deaths across Thailand)

Over this previous month the every day Covid reviews of latest daily infections has hovered between 20,000 – 27,000, however with a much decrease proportion of Covid-related deaths – about 25% of the daily deaths recorded through the Covid ‘Delta’ surge between June and August, 2021, still high but mostly people who are unvaccinated.
The published one hundred,000 every day case prediction would not only put the Thai medical system underneath severe strain, it would probably delay the current four-phase plan to wind again restrictions and the elimination of the Thailand Pass.
It ought to be famous that the 2021 ‘Songkran surge’ additionally coincided with the worldwide figures which confirmed a pointy enhance across the similar time, and the ‘Delta’ surge was coming to Thailand anyway, Songkran or not.
Songkran in 2020 was in the midst of more draconian lockdowns across Thailand and showed no statistical increase in instances.
But, again, the Thai government is wheeling out its concern and calamity narrative, rather than pursuing a more constructive message about celebrating Songkran at home while taking adequate precautions to guard the sick and elderly. The authorities is conscious of a lot more about Covid, and Omicron, in March 2022, and so do the inhabitants.
The authorities and provincial officials have additionally added extra complexity for 2022 by cancelling, not cancelling, Songkran celebrations. In an infographic last weekend the government’s public relations department published that each “water splashing” was permitted and, a few sentences later, that “water splashing” isn’t permitted (it certainly wasn’t clear).
The to-and-from between ministers, pissed off enterprise homeowners and tourism authorities has simply added to the confusion in current weeks. The finish result is that, less than three weeks out from Songkran 2022, nobody is exactly certain what they’ll do to participate within the annual ‘water’ pageant.
(Our best guess is that the federal government will back the ‘traditional’ Buddhist and Thai traditions of Songkran and curtail any of the favored roadside wettings, foam events and large, public gatherings with water pistols and insane amounts of alcohol.)

This Monday the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is going to consider a proposal by Khao San merchants to permit limited celebrations which would come with the more exuberant forms of water splashing.
No agency steerage, fixed modifications and contradictory guidelines.
Meanwhile, just about each nation around Asia, together with South Korea (who are having an unlimited surge in Omicron cases… within the area of 200,000 – 600,000 day by day infections during March), are opening up their borders, utilizing the proof from around the globe, that Omicron, nonetheless deadly, is much less dangerous than earlier Covid variants.
(From April 1, South Korea is opening borders to full vaccinated worldwide travellers with no quarantine)

Thailand’s immediate neighbours – Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, even Myanmar, are all prying open their borders despite local surges of Omicron infections. Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines – also opening up and dropping most of their Covid-era restrictions. Singapore is even rescinding legal guidelines about sporting face-masks outdoor.
Thailand, just 9 months earlier than, was leading the region with a plan to reopen borders. Thai officials referred to as it the Sandbox (we actually don’t know why). Thailand took the lead and, on July 1, launched the primary Sandbox in Phuket, which was later adopted by the Test & Go program for fully vaccinated travellers.
But now Thailand is trailing the remainder of the region, and the world, in preserving an extended record of restrictions in place and hobbling the recovery of its tourist and hospitality industry. Thailand is now the cowering baby within the corner.
No obligation of worry additionally pervades the every day messaging and imagery out of the Thai authorities. Face-mask adorned officers lining up for day by day photo alternatives (thank heavens for the names beneath the photos!), medical officers awaiting arriving travellers in PPE, constant announcements about maintaining social distancing, temperature checks at every doorway, and companies promoting that they clear every little thing with surgical precision all day, every single day.
(The Thaiger notably loves the barrage of reminders about 2 metre social distancing earlier than getting on home flights, solely to be bundled into a bus to get to a aircraft where you’re packed in like sardines.)

Whilst some highly paid official in the well being department probably believe the imagery instils belief and a feeling of safety, they don’t realise it additionally reinforces a high degree of fear and wariness about Covid. It might have worked in the early days of Covid, two years ago, but now, with all the information, information and improved medical care out there, simply appears silly.
So, we look ahead to Songkran this 12 months, with or with out alcohol, with or with out water, and with or without individuals sticking swabs up our noses.
Sawasdee pi mai!

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