What will Thailand look like after lockdown restrictions have been lifted? How will the economy and small businesses recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic?
These questions and others are being answered by experts around the country as Thailand designs a roadmap that will allow businesses to reopen and life to return to some level of normality after lockdown restrictions have been eased.
The first stage of the roadmap is to increase testing for covid-19 among the general population. Currently, Thailand has one of the lowest coronavirus testing rates per 1,000 people in the world.
Scaling up testing is essential for the reopening of the country. Tanarak Plipat, Deputy Director-General of the Disease Control Department, has said that Thailand will introduce strategic testing for three groups of people.
This testing will focus on provinces that have not recorded any cases of coronavirus for the past 14 days. He said:
“We have to look for cases of pneumonia and influenza-like illness. If there are any clusters, we are going to test the local population. If we find positive cases, we are going to test the larger population as well. The other group is a certain number of walk-in patients who miss certain criteria for testing. We want to test some of them to see how many we have missed.”
He also said there will be focused testing on provinces with high rates of infections such as Bangkok, Phuket, Chonburi, Chiang Mai, and provinces in the deep south.
From these tests, the Thai Government hopes to analyze trends of coronavirus cases and use the information to establish zones where businesses can reopen and operate as normal.
The second stage of the roadmap is to provide quick access to medication for people who test positive for the virus.
It is currently unknown when a vaccine will be ready for the general public, however, favipiravir has been found to be an effective drug against coronavirus.
The government will seek to find a greater supply of favipiravir to ensure it is on-hand to treat all positive covid-19 cases.
The third stage is intense vaccine research. Viroj Na Ranong, Research Director at the Thailand Development Research Institute, believes the development of an effective vaccine may take more than two years.
During this time, he says people’s lives may transform dramatically with demand for technology increasing and the tourism industry declining heavily. He said:
In the next two years, demand for smartphones will increase and push the growth of 5G. The government should promote this sector and ensure public access at affordable prices. It will also pave the way for distance learning.”
“Social distancing requires businesses to adapt and shoulder higher financial costs, for example, airlines, public transport and restaurants may be forced to discontinue or resize. The government should consider providing subsidies to affected businesses.”
The fourth stage of the roadmap relies on the general public. Maintaining sanitary habits such as washing hands and wearing face masks help the number of coronavirus infections decline significantly.
Anunchai Assawamakin, a pharmacology lecturer at Mahidol University and adviser to the Minister of Public Health, believes businesses in both the public and private sectors must come up with a new model for social distancing. He said:
“They should assess risks and readiness for disease control in every activity. For example, restaurants and fitness centers may have to reduce the number of customers and divide staff into two separate groups. However, boxing gyms, gambling dens, entertainment venues, and pubs should suspend services for now. Public health inspectors should be on duty to make sure people don’t break the rules.”
These four stages combined will create a functioning society again in Thailand. However, it will not be a society we recognize.
Source: Bangkok Post | Photo: Reuters