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Anutin Overrules Disease Experts, Says No Covid-19 Rules Relaxation Proposal

Thailand’s weed-smoking, anti-nightlife, anti-alcohol public health minister who hopes to be prime minister one day.
Thailand’s weed-smoking, anti-nightlife, anti-alcohol public health minister who hopes to be prime minister one day.

Thailand’s anti-nightlife, anti-alcohol public health minister appears to have won an internal argument over further relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, with the ministry announcing it has “no plans” to propose any such thing.

Following public comments that he is against relaxing restrictions and doesn’t see nightlife fully reopening “anytime soon,” Anutin Charnvirakul’s ministry said it would not, at this week’s Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration meeting, propose any relaxation of coronavirus prohibitions.

The statement comes as daily coronavirus cases on Wednesday jumped nearly 30 percent to 13,182 confirmed cases – not including hundreds of more positive antigen tests – and 24 deaths.

Anutin, who does not sit on the CCSA and has no vote, may not prevail, however. The CCSA has its own experts and could relax rules on its own. There was widespread speculation that one measure to be approved was extending alcohol-sales hours in restaurants another hour to midnight.

There is no chance bars, nightclubs and other nightlife will be given the official OK to reopen fully.

Anutin’s bull-headed will appears to have won out over saner minds, including DR. Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, who, on Monday, said the ministry was preparing a relaxation proposal for the CCSA meeting, arguing that getting Thais back to work and normal life was more important.

Opas said Thailand was moving in line with trends of many other countries and that he believes the country should no longer use lockdowns as people need to learn to cope and live with Covid-19, which will soon be considered endemic.

Despite the high transmission rate of the omicron coronavirus variant, the disease effects are less severe than earlier variants such as delta, Opas said.

Meanwhile, the situation in Thailand in terms of new daily cases was still considered safe, he noted on the day Thailand hit 10,000 cases for the first time since October.

Opas said home isolation for patients with mild symptoms has proven effective as it can reserve hospital beds for patients showing more severe symptoms.

Clearly not everyone agrees with Opas, as, at the same time he was urging relaxation, Maha Sarakham Province announced the prohibition of dining activities, including weddings, meetings, ordinations, and funerals, effective from Feb. 6.