With the reemergence of COVID-19 in Thailand this week Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister, addressed the nation. His full speech is reprinted below.
The recent outbreak of Covid-19 infections in Samut Sakhon are being dealt with urgently and with strong measures, and I would like to thank everyone for the cooperation they are giving.
This outbreak serves as an important reminder to us all about how serious a threat the Covid-19 pandemic still remains for our nation.
Right at this time, the worldwide Covid situation has also taken a sudden and serious plunge for the worse.
• A few days ago, a new strain of the coronavirus was confirmed in Britain – one that seems to be more infectious, and that spreads much, much faster; they have reported around 100,000 new cases in just a single week. The new strain now also seems to be appearing in several other countries.
• At the same time, December has been the worst month for the entire world for the Covid pandemic, with many countries reporting 100s of deaths in just a single week, and some reporting thousands of deaths.
“Many countries have now started stringent restrictions”
The worsening Covid situation in the world will have serious consequences on us in Thailand, and we must prepare ourselves.
• First, it will mean the world economy will take longer to recover with an impact on our economic recovery, too.
• Second, it will mean that we will have to be even more careful with the more relaxed rules for letting into Thailand people arriving from other countries. Because the Covid situation is so bad outside of Thailand, our biggest risk is that people coming into our country will bring the disease in with them, and with it a disaster for our health system and catastrophic impact on our economy. That is why we must be especially careful at our airports, train entry points, bus and car entry points, sea entry points and all other places where people enter our country.
I thank the many people involved in ensuring the security of these entry points for their vigilance and strictness, because it only takes a few people to get past them and bring in the disease to create great economic and health hardship for hundreds of thousands of others.
“We are conducting intensive testing”
Many foreigners coming through Suvarnabhumi have told me about how impressed they were with the professionalism and the efficiency of our teams there who are managing the entry process. We must keep up that good work.
• And the third consequence of the worsening global situation will be the need for us to keep up a much stricter guard inside Thailand. For example, in Samut Sakhon, we are conducting intensive testing, while the province, as well as nearby provinces, are adopting stricter regulations related to group activities and testing. As a result, I am may need to introduce additional measures, especially to do with New Year celebrations and how, or whether, they should be conducted. I know how important it is for people to relax, and how so many small businesses depend on the extra income. Within this week I will be meeting with the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration and will announce additional regulations that may be appropriate for the evolving situation. It is a decision that requires careful thought. But what the world has seen now is that being relaxed about health precautions leads to great economic suffering for everyone in the country.
“Our hospitals and health facilities continue to be able to operate normally”
Many countries have now started stringent restrictions on people leaving their homes with ‘stay-at-home’ orders, restrictions on foreigners entering their countries, and the closure of most shops and all entertainment and other public places. Some countries, like France, imposed a temporary stop to even the movement of freight in and out of the country!
When the Covid pandemic started to become a threat early this year, the countries that were relaxed about health and safety precautions in the hope of preserving their economies are now the countries suffering the worst impacts on their economies, because the pandemic has made it impossible for life to go on as normal. It is clear that without strict health and safety precautions the economic situation of everyone in the country will suffer even more.
We were strict with our concerns on preserving the health of citizens, right from the beginning, and as a result our economy has suffered less than many others, and we have been able to continue with some of our normal day-to-day activities. Our hospitals and health facilities continue to be able to operate normally to look after their normal patients without being overwhelmed with coronavirus patients. And, most importantly, families have been spared the deaths of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and children – a nightmare that is still being lived every day in many parts of the world.
The credit for this goes to every citizen, without exception, and to the unity of Thais and our community spirit. We made – and continue to make – very painful sacrifices for the sake of the rest of the community. We have all been wearing masks constantly, sanitizing our hands regularly and frequently, and practicing social distancing. And we have all benefited from the exceptional work of village volunteers, health personnel and other officials throughout the country, and all our government departments collaborating efficiently.
“We are a nation that knows how to be self-reliant”
We must continue to be unrelentingly vigilant in our behaviours.
We must remember that it only takes one or two people to neglect their social responsibility and to act carelessly or selfishly for millions to suffer. So, I ask you, please to carry your social responsibility with seriousness, and to do it with pride as your personal contribution to our country’s wellbeing, because the act of every single individual, every single day, makes a difference to the rest of the country.
With regard to those networks that bring illegal immigrants into the country, they must be prosecuted without any leniency whatsoever, regardless of whether they may be people with official positions or otherwise. This latest flare up of infections in Samut Sakhon is primarily due to such illegal immigrants and they have brought much grief to the country.
Even though the road to recovery is still long, I am confident that if we can do these, we can continue to be among the least affected countries in the world by this terrible disease. We are a nation that knows how to be self-reliant, because we can depend on each other. We must continue to be able to depend on each other.
For my part, I will continue to ensure that government departments work together with close collaboration, that we listen to the advice of public health professionals, and that we keep trying to accelerate the availability of vaccines, having already successfully ensured that we have local manufacturing of one of the best vaccines in the world.
Now, at this time, while the Covid-19 storm gets worse outside of our country, we must be ever more careful. I ask for your continuing cooperation and solidarity in this fight.