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  • Thailand’s prime minister asked to reconsider another national lockdown

    A group of Thai medical professionals has issued a statement, asking the country’s prime minster to reconsider locking down the country again as a matter of urgency, citing the rapid spread of the latest wave of COVID-19 infections and fears that the medical system will collapse.

    The statement also criticizes the government’s management ability, saying the 1668 hotline, which is supposed to help find beds for COVID-19 patients, is an indicator that management is failing. It also said that people do not have equal access to treatment, and some are paying for that with their lives.

    The group also recommends that the government lift the mandate requiring any hospital detecting a new case to admit the patient. It said the order is impractical, resulting in too many people waiting for beds.

    The statement also recommends that the government let asymptomatic patients self-isolate at home, with organized follow-up and preparedness to transfer them to hospital if needed. They claimed the field hospitals, seen in news coverage, are “for public relations purposes,” and do not reflect an understanding of the impending problems and exceed the available, but limited number of medical professionals in the country.

    The group said they have been doing their best, and will continue to do so, but they also need dependable management.:

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


    • Prayut among first fined for flouting mask rule

      Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has been fined 6,000 baht for failing to wear a mask during a meeting with his vaccine procurement advisers.

      Bangkok authorities made mask-wearing compulsory starting Monday. They clarified on Monday it is required even when in a vehicle of more than one person.

      Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang posted on Facebook on Monday afternoon he had filed a complaint against the premier with police.

      City Hall sprang into action after social media had criticised the PM. His Facebook showed him sitting with his face unprotected at the head of a meeting table at around 11am while everyone else was wearing a mask.

      The photo, which was later removed, was meant to promote the meeting on vaccine procurement at Government House.

      In his Facebook post in the afternoon, Pol Gen Aswin wrote Gen Prayut had asked him to check whether he had done wrong.

      “I told him he had violated a Bangkok Metropolitan Administration announcement, which requires everyone in the capital to wear a mask at all times while outside his or her home or residence. Violation results in a fine up to 20,000 baht under Section 51 of the 2015 Disease Control Act,” he wrote.

      Since investigators may determine the fine for the offence based on a fining regulation, Gen Prayut was asked to pay 6,000 baht.

      The Bangkok governor, accompanied by the police chief and Dusit police investigators, then went to Government House to charge him and Gen Prayut agreed to pay the fine, wrote Pol Gen Aswin.

      While the maximum fine for the offence is 20,000 baht, officials may consider charging less based on the regulation on fining, which stipulates 6,000 baht for the first-time offence, 12,000 baht for the second and 20,000 baht for the third onward.:

      Good stunt

      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


      • ^Hope the stunt works and gets more people to wear a mask
        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


        • PM appointed Thailand’s “COVID Czar” in sole charge of handling the pandemic

          The Thai cabinet today (Tuesday) designated Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as the sole authority in charge of all responsibilities and duties, previously vested in his ministers, to deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic.

          The powers vested in various ministers, by virtue of various laws regarding the issuance of orders, permits and approvals which will help in preventing or containing COVID spread or in helping the people, will be vested in the prime minister on temporary basis.

          According to the cabinet, the concentration of powers with the prime minister is to ensure efficiency in the efforts to deal with the disease.

          The laws include the Communicable Disease Act, the Drugs Act, the Navigation in Thai Waters Act, the Air Travel Act, the Land Traffic Act, the Armaments Act, the Medical Equipment Act, the Immigration Act, the Public Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Act, the Poisonous Substances Act and the National Health Security Act, among others.

          All key aspects related to the prevention of the spread of the virus and treatment of the infected, including the procurement and distribution of vaccines and anti-viral drugs, management of hospital beds, vaccinations and imposition of restrictions to contain the disease, among others, will be in the sole control of the prime minister.

          After the cabinet meeting, the prime minister said that he had assigned the Foreign Affairs Ministry to contact foreign governments for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

          He said he would meet with the Federation of Thai Industries, the Thai Bankers Association and the Board of Trade of Thailand, to discuss cooperation with the government in the fight against the disease and to hear their views and recommendations.:

          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


          • Prayut looks for private sector help in speeding up jab rollout

            Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has promised close collaboration with the private sector to speed up the vaccine rollout and achieve the target of inoculating 50 million people by year's end, government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said on Wednesday.

            The spokesman said Gen Prayut stressed the role of the government in helping business leaders, including the Thai Chamber of Commerce and Federation of Thai Industries, acquire more vaccines and accelerate distribution during a meeting at Government House with business leaders.

            The key meeting was called to help the government tackle the slow pace of its fight against Covid-19, as the new wave of the epidemic further weakens the economy.

            To date, about 240,000 people, out of a population of 69 million, have received the recommended two doses of vaccine, or less than 4%, according to data released by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration on Wednesday.

            The government is scrambling to buy more vaccines amid calls for Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul to step down, although the embattled minister vowed to continue the fight against the pandemic.

            Gen Prayut now calls the shots in the campaign against the disease, after the cabinet on Tuesday granted him temporary full authority to enforce 31 laws relating to the pandemic.

            The private sector has proposed four teams, comprising several companies, to help increase the rollout and buy more vaccines. The proposal received backing from the government. (continues below)

            Sanan Angubolkul, the Thai Chamber of Commerce chairman, said after the meeting the prime minister welcomed the proposal.

            Business groups estimated the latest outbreak would reduce economic growth by 1.2 percentage points. The Bank of Thailand has projected a 6.1% economic contraction this year.:

            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


            • Let's vaccinate together: PM

              The government has pledged to work closely with the private sector to speed up the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and achieve its target of providing 100 million Covid-19 vaccine shots to inoculate 50 million people by the end of the year.

              Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha used a meeting with businessmen at Government House yesterday to stress that he and his ministers were committed to helping them acquire more vaccines.

              "The prime minister was glad that the government will work with the private sector as they share a common aim of containing the outbreak of Covid-19 and restoring the economy to prepare for the reopening of the country," said government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri.

              The government has approved the private sector's proposal to set up four teams, comprising several companies, to help increase the rollout and buy more vaccines:

              Team A will be responsible for distribution and logistics and will provide personnel and equipment support, plus additional vaccination areas arranged by private companies;

              Team B (communication) will work to allay people's concern about the safety of vaccines and persuade them to be inoculated;

              Team C (IT operation) will develop a vaccination registration system and provide technical support to the state's official "Mor Prom" Line account;

              Team D (extra vaccine procurement) will work with state agencies and private hospitals to buy and offer alternative vaccines to private company staff.

              Sanan Angubolkul, the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC) chairman, said after the meeting that the prime minister had welcomed the proposal and stressed the TCC was ready to assist government moves to buy more vaccines and speed up their distribution.

              Gen Prayut is now calling the shots in the Covid-19 campaign after the cabinet granted him temporary powers on Tuesday to enforce 31 laws relating to the handling of the pandemic.

              Danucha Pichayanan, secretary-general of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), said after yesterday's meeting that the prime minister had instructed the council and the National Security Council (NSC) to work with the Joint Public and Private Sector Consultative Committee (JPPSCC) to support the procurement of vaccine doses by state and private agencies.

              It was agreed at the meeting that the two sectors would collaborate to distribute vaccine doses and vaccinate priority groups in Bangkok, while the JPPSCC would be responsible for distribution and vaccination in other provinces, Mr Danucha said.

              The Public Health Ministry and the Interior Ministry will work with the Federation of Thai Industries, the Board of Trade of Thailand, the Thai Bankers Association and the Tourism Council of Thailand to procure vaccine doses and achieve broad vaccine distribution.

              Mr Danucha said the private sector would coordinate with the NSC and other concerned agencies to roll out a PR campaign and build public confidence in the vaccines.

              The Public Health Ministry will be responsible for handling the registration of five priority groups: medical and healthcare staff, front-line officials such as immigration officers and soldiers, people with underlying health issues, people aged 60 and above, and those living in the worst-hit areas.

              The Food and Drug Administration and Government Pharmaceutical Organisation have also been instructed to consider easing regulations to allow the private sector to procure vaccine doses, Mr Danucha said.:

              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


              • PM outlines governments efforts to help people amid the pandemic in Labour Day address

                Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said his government was working hard to control the pandemic, stimulate the economy and help people in vulnerable groups affected by the pandemic.

                In a statement on National Labour Day on Saturday, the PM sent his best regards to all labourers who he said contributed to the country’s economic and social development.

                “Due to the ongoing outbreak of Covid-19, the government has to cancel all labour day activities for another year for the safety of all labourers and the general public,” he said.

                “The 'Rao Mai Ting Kan' [We Don't Leave Anyone Behind], 'Kon La Khreung' [Let's Go Halves], 'Rao Chana' [We Win] and 'Mor33 Rao Rak Kan' [Section33 We Love Each Other] were all schemes implemented to help labourers in all groups,” Prayut added.

                “We have also reduced social security contribution, utility bills and interest rates of several loan programmes to make sure that everyone can stay strong and overcome this crisis together.”

                Prayut added that the government would continue to promote labour protection and benefits to be at the same level as international standards, as well as provide necessary training and development programmes to improve labour skills in accordance with market demands when the Covid-19 situation improves.

                “I would like to urge every labourer to take care of their health in the new normal by wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, washing your hands regularly, eating freshly cooked foods and avoiding going to crowded spaces,” said Prayut.

                “Lastly, I wish everyone a healthy body and strong spirit to help drive the country forward steadily into the future.”:

                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                • More Covid relief in the works

                  The government is considering new relief packages for both individuals and businesses as a part of a new economic stimulus package, against the backdrop of Thailand's third wave of Covid-19 outbreak.

                  Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has instructed all economic agencies concerned, including the Finance Ministry and the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), to speed up assessing the impact of the Covid-19 restrictions on all sectors, which is required before details of these relief packages can be mapped out, said Traisuree Taisaranakul, deputy government spokeswoman, on Sunday.

                  The details of the Covid-19 relief packages will be submitted to the Centre for Economic Situation Administration for consideration, she said.:

                  Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                  • Thailand orders an additional 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines

                    Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the procurement of 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from various sources, on top of the 100 million doses procured for this year, to make sure that everyone in the country is inoculated and that there are reserves left over for future use.

                    Due to the ever changing situation, he said that Thailand’s vaccine acquisition program must not rely on the assumption that herd immunity will be developed if 50 million people in Thailand are inoculated, while pointing out that it remains unclear when or whether herd immunity will actually be developed against a virus which keeps mutating.

                    The prime minister added that there remain several unanswered questions about the efficacy of vaccines whether two doses are enough to develop immunity.

                    He said that there is also the risk of delayed deliveries of the vaccines, citing the recent cases of some countries, which had already placed orders for certain amounts of vaccine, actually receiving fewer doses.

                    The prime minister said he has instructed authorities to be more proactive by negotiating with more vaccine suppliers to procure new vaccines, adding that talks are under way with seven potential suppliers.

                    Due to the high demand, he said that Thailand must try harder to procure more vaccines, though this may not be easy.

                    The prime minister also said that, after intensive discussions with medical experts, he has placed increased importance on administering the first dose of vaccine to as many people as possible, because even the first dose will reduce the severity of the COVID-19 symptoms, reduce the chance of getting infected and the risk of death.

                    He said he has set a target that, by the end of July, half of Thailand’s population will have received their first dose.:

                    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                    • PM declares vaccination national agenda as he urges all Thais to be vaccinated

                      Prime Minster Prayut Chan-o-cha, today (Tuesday) declared COVID-19 vaccination program Thailand’s national agenda as he urged Thai people to get vaccinated as many as possible, pointing out that vaccines are the key element which will usher Thailand through the crisis.

                      In his Facebook post today, the prime minister reaffirmed his confidence that Thailand would receive up to 100 million doses of vaccines this year, so that 50 million Thais would be inoculated within this year to develop herd immunity to fight against the virus. He also aimed to procure an addition of 50 million doses from different sources, making the total 150 million.

                      According to the prime minister, Thailand would be the production hub of the British-made AstraZeneca vaccine in Asean with Siam Bioscience, the only Thai firm authorized to produce AstraZeneca vaccine under technological transfer agreement, adding that the pharmaceutical company would deliver a minimum of 61 million doses of vaccine for the Thai people which will provide Thailand with long-term vaccine security.

                      He said he had asked the cabinet to adopt vaccination as the national agenda under which all aspects about the vaccine program, including vaccine procurement, distribution and vaccination will be given top priority in order to expedite the development of herd immunity in Thailand.

                      The prime minister also urged people to come forward to receive vaccine shots as he assured all the vaccines procured and to be procured are effective and approved by the Ministry of Public Health and have been widely used worldwide.

                      Several millions of people across the world, including many government leaders, have already been inoculated and experts around the world have maintained that all vaccines are effective in reducing the severity of the symptoms and can save lives.

                      Undesirable side effects are insignificant compared to the benefits of vaccines, said the prime minister, assuring the public that everyone who is vaccinated will be kept under close observation by doctors after their inoculation to make sure that post-vaccination side effects will be taken care of.

                      He claimed that all cabinet ministers, including himself, and many MPs had been inoculated without anyone of them experiencing undesirable side effects.:

                      Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                      • PM inspects Bangkok vaccination point ahead of rollout

                        Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha led government officials to oversee preparations of a vaccination station at Central Plaza Ladprao in Bangkoks Chatuchak district on Wednesday.

                        "Shop-and-jab" stations are being launched across the capital in a joint effort by the City Hall and the Board of Trade. They will operate daily from 8am to 5pm, offering vaccination and symptom-monitoring by medical staff.

                        Fourteen vaccination stations have been prepared in Bangkok at the following locations:

                        1. Central Plaza Ladprao (run by staff from Ramathibodi Hospital)

                        2. Central Plaza Pinklao (Vajira Hospital)

                        3. Iconsiam (Siriraj Hospital)

                        4. True Digital Park (Siriraj Hospital)

                        5. Samyan Mitrtown (Chulalongkorn Hospital)

                        6. SCG Bangsue (Department of Medical Services)

                        7. The Mall Bang Kapi (Nopparatrajathanee Hospital)

                        8. The Mall Bang Khae (Siam University's faculties of medicine and nursing)

                        9. Thanya Park (Bangpakok Hospital Group)

                        10. Asiatique (Bangpakok Hospital Group)

                        11. Robinson Lifestyle Latkrabang (Bangpakok Hospital Group)

                        12. Tesco Lotus Minburi (Bangpakok Hospital Group)

                        13. Big C Bangbon (Bangpakok Hospital Group)

                        14. PTT Station, Rama II (Bangpakok Hospital Group)

                        The Board of Trade will set up an additional 11 vaccination points to bring the total in Bangkok to 25. PM inspects Bangkok vaccination point ahead of rollout

                        Once up and running, the 25 points will be able to vaccinate 38,000-50,000 people per day. All the vaccination points will operate for seven months in a bid to achieve herd immunity. Bangkok authorities are aiming to inoculate 70 per cent of city residents over the next two months.:

                        Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                        • PM denies B50bn Thai Airways recap plan

                          Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Friday denied reports that the government, through the Finance Ministry, would allocate 50 billion baht to recapitalise financially struggling Thai Airways International Plc (THAI).

                          He was responding to reports the carrier would again become a state enterprise through the re-acquisition of the ministry's majority stake in the airline.

                          The prime minister said THAI is currently moving through the debt rehabilitation process.

                          "I have decided that the government will not involve itself in the work of the rehabilitation plan administrators.

                          "The government will not provide any financial support... When the rehabilitation plan begins to be implemented, we'll then decide how to proceed," Gen Prayut said.

                          The airline lost its state-owned status last year when the Finance Ministry reduced its stake to under 50%, to help ease the debt-rehabilitation process.

                          Previously, several cabinet ministers were concerned the government would need to guarantee a loan worth billions of baht to prop up THAI if it were to come under the state enterprise umbrella again.

                          Reportedly supporting THAI's reinstatement as a state enterprise were Finance Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith and Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow, who also heads the government's economic team.

                          They argued reinstatement, which would require the Finance Ministry to become the majority shareholder again, would boost the airline's financial strength and its bargaining power with creditors.

                          On Wednesday, creditors postponed a vote on THAI's debt-restructuring plan until next week.

                          The vote, to be held next Wednesday will decide whether the airline, burdened by debts exceeding 300 billion baht, can stay in business. The airline needs more than 50% of creditors to accept its plan.

                          Pantip Sripimol, director-general of the State Enterprise Policy Office, said this week's vote was delayed after more than 10 creditors called for the plan to be amended.

                          One issue involves getting the Finance Ministry, still THAI's biggest shareholder, to guarantee loans for the airline to make it easier for it to borrow and more viable to sustain the company.

                          But before the ministry can act as a loan guarantor, it must boost its take back to over 50%, which would make THAI a state enterprise again.

                          Calls to reinstate the Finance Ministry as the majority shareholder have come under fire from critics who fear it would be too much of a financial burden.

                          Currently, the ministry and the Government Savings Bank together hold 49.9% of THAI's shares.

                          The airline, which suffered a record loss of 141 billion baht last year, is reportedly seeking a deferment of bond repayments for six years and a waiver of unpaid loan interest.:

                          Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                          • Prayut puts brakes on walk-in jabs

                            Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has put the brakes on walk-in services for Covid-19 vaccinations to prevent people flocking to the inoculation sites and becoming upset if they fail to secure a jab, a government source said.

                            During a cabinet meeting held via videoconference, Gen Prayut said he disagreed with vaccination walk-ins because people would turn up in droves causing chaos at the selected locations, particularly in Bangkok which has a large population, the source said.

                            The prime minister wanted a new vaccination format such as on-site registration, the source quoted the PM as saying.

                            Currently, the Mor Prom app serves as the main channel for people to book their appointments, and concerned agencies have been instructed to work on preventing any technical glitches that may leave the app unable to work properly, the source said.

                            "The prime minister wants everyone involved to stop talking about vaccination walk-ins until clear measures are finalised. People will be upset and complain if they walk in but cannot get shots," the source quoted the prime minister as saying.

                            "If there are enough shots available, authorities will manage them. Vaccination walk-ins are a sensitive issue and must be handled carefully,'' the source quoted the prime minister as saying.

                            Gen Prayut also warned agencies not to give confusing information about vaccination walk-ins, stressing that the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration is the only agency that should provide the public with the information, the source said.:

                            Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                            • Kingdom eager to reconnect

                              Thailand is ready to join efforts to boost regional and global economic cooperation in a post-Covid-19 world, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told a Nikkei Forum event on Thursday.

                              During the International Conference on the Future of Asia (Nikkei Forum) organised by Nikkei, Gen Prayut delivered his speech on "Shaping the Post-Covid Era: Asia's Role in the Global Recovery" via teleconference at Government House.

                              He said the Covid-19 outbreak has prompted several countries to fix their weaknesses to get back on their feet, to re-emerge from the pandemic with strength and as quickly as possible.

                              Countries working together in search of new possibilities and multilateral cooperation is key to turning the crisis into an opportunity and boost the region's capacity to revive itself, Gen Prayut said.

                              "I am confident that Asia will be able to play a leading role in the global economic recovery with a more vigorous, flexible and sustainable growth," he said. "In particular, a strategic partnership between Thailand and Japan is a vital beginning for a comprehensive recovery."

                              "Japan has played an important role in the Thai economy for a long time," Gen Prayut added. "Thailand has been committed to improving the business environment for foreign investors."

                              He said Thailand is ready to act on recommendations made by Japanese companies in Thailand.

                              These recommendations reportedly include the continuity of economic and investment policies, including the Eastern Economic Corridor scheme; and the development of infrastructure projects such as rail systems

                              Others are the high-speed train project linking Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi, and U-Tapao airports, upgrading the skills of engineers and experts in key industries; upgrading regulations, particularly customs procedures and corporate income tax; and promoting opportunities for open, free and fair trade.

                              Gen Prayut revealed Thailand is being urged to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and the government is ready to consider making the move.

                              He said multilateral cooperation through international and regional frameworks such as Asean, the CPTPP and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade pact has played a key role in a comprehensive recovery.

                              Gen Prayut added that Thailand will host an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting next year and will initiate talks on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific plan.

                              Thailand hopes to receive support to achieve strong, balanced, stable, sustainable and comprehensive growth in the long term, he said.

                              Thailand will also expand trade and investment ties with Japan, in addition to relations under the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement and the Asean-Japan Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Partnership, he said.

                              He also expressed support for the safe reopening of borders by ensuring equal access to Covid-19 vaccines.:

                              Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


                              • PM Prayut promotes confidence in Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines

                                Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is promoting public confidence in the Sinovac and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, the two brands currently being administered in Thailand.

                                While receiving his second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine today (Monday) he said “I’m here to take the jab because I have confidence in the vaccine’s efficacy and safety. There may be some side effects, but they aren’t fatal”. The prime minister received the jab at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Nonthaburi province. He received his first dose on March 16th.

                                “Everyone needs to listen to the doctors as well, including what to do before vaccination. You need to have enough sleep, and wait to see if there are any symptoms after the jab,” he added.

                                Gen. Prayut also assured the public of the efficacy and safety of other vaccine brands, which may be acquired later this year and next, saying that there will be strict screening of the vaccines, in accordance with the Public Health Ministry’s standards.

                                Six million doses of the Sinovac vaccine have been delivered from China so far, with three million more expected next month. Only 117,600 doses of AstraZeneca were imported in February, but 61 million more doses are being produced locally, by Siam Bioscience, for administration in Thailand from June through December.

                                Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines, both from the US, have also been approved by Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but they have not yet been purchased for use in the country.:

                                Keep your friends close and your enemies closer


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