A week of lockdown has brought no relief in Thailand’s struggle against the coronavirus with another record 15,376 new cases and 87 deaths reported Monday.
The latest grim numbers mark the fifth record in seven days since the country’s 13 hardest-hit provinces shut down, with a mandatory nighttime curfew, a strongly suggested daytime stay-at-home order and all but food markets and convenience stores shuttered.
Key provinces also recorded new records or disturbing increases. Chonburi saw a massive 867 cases – nearly 200 more than the previous record – with 210 in Banglamung District, which includes Pattaya. Phuket saw fifth day of double digit increases out of the past six with 28 new cases, two of which were “sandbox” tourists.
Health officials predict that cases will continue to increase, despite the lockdown that is certain to be extended past the originally scheduled Aug. 2, with the peak not coming until mid-August. By then, Thailand could be seeing 20,000 new cases a day or more.
The surge continues to burn through Thailand due to the government insipid Covid-19 vaccination campaign, which saw a meager 128,026 doses administered on Saturday. For the past week, no more than 352,879 and no less than 74,834 doses were administered. Less than 6 percent of Thailand is fully vaccinated.
Thousands of those doses were administered Sunday at the Bang Sue Grand Station where walk-in appointments are allowed for foreigners over the age of 60 as well as elderly, pregnant and chronically ill Thais. But the inoculation center stood the potential of becoming a Covid-19 superspreader event in itself due to poor organization that led to massive, closely crowded queues.
The vaccination effort has been worsened by the government’s ability to devise a singular strategy and communicate effectively while insisting on ham-fisted, top-down regulations that have led to people literally dying on the streets while waiting for beds.
Last week, Samut Sakhon Gov. Veerasak Vichitsangsri ordered bureaucrats to break Public Health Ministry regulations on isolating Covid-19 patients when lives are at risk.
“If regulations cause people to die because of a lack of quarantine space, just bypass those regulations and do it,” Veerasak said on his Facebook page. “I issue the order.”
Kia Party boss Korn Chatikavanij said he doesn’t see the lockdown being lifted because burdensome regulations continue to block patients from finding beds for the ill and allowing hospitals to reject Covid-19 patients. One of those nonsensical rules prohibits a patient to be admitted to a hospital without a hospital-administered RT-PCR Covid-19 test.
The rule disqualifies RT-PCR tests done by private labs or any rapid antigen test, despite the fact they rarely give false positives. As a result, people are dying or falling severely ill waiting days for hospitals to process a redundant test.
The lockdown, meanwhile, continues to gut the Thai economy and the livelihoods of people put out of work.
The Bank of Thailand said July 22 that the new lockdown will chop Thailand’s gross domestic product 0.8-2 percent with the economy shrinking as badly as it did in April of 2020, when the economy shrunk 6.1 percent, the worst performance in 22 years.
Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said the lockdown may cost the country 100 billion baht.