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Thai PM defends government’s handling of pandemic 3rd day of censure debate

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha defended his government’s performance in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic today (Thursday), the third day of the no confidence debate against him and five other ministers, claiming that cumulative infections and fatality rates in Thailand are much lower than those in many other countries.

He also explained the initial decision not to join COVAX was not a mistake and dismissed the Opposition’s allegation that the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), which he is heading, has assumed a monopolistic position in the management of the pandemic.

After being bombarded with accusations by the Opposition over slow vaccine procurement, vaccine shortages and alleged corruption in the procurement of the Sinovac vaccine, the prime minister took to the floor to defend himself and his administration.

He said that, for the past twenty months, Thailand has performed fairly well in dealing with the latest wave of COVID-19, compared to the global average “but not as well as many people in the country expected.”

Around the world, he said, 217 million people have been infected, accounting for 2.8% of the global population and about 4.5 million people have died, accounting for 2.1% of the infected. In Thailand, however, the infection rate is 1.8% of the population and the death toll is 0.96% of the infected.

Based on infection per one million population, he said that, on August 30th there were 16,548 infections in Thailand, compared to the global average of 27,848 and many fewer than countries which have administered the Moderna vaccine to their populations, such as Israel, with 118,979 infections and the US’s 116,427 infections.

He said Thailand’s cumulative death toll, per one million of the population, is 155, compared 549 globally, 1,945 in the UK, 1,917 in the US and 791 in Israel.

“Thailand’s death rate from COVID-19 is comparatively very low, but we must make sure that there will be no more deaths. I have sympathy for everyone, but we have to look at the situations outside too. If we only look at the situation in the country and keep criticizing it, we won’t be able to do anything,” said the prime minister.

He also claimed that the decision not to join COVAX at the beginning was not a mistake, but a judgement based on the best interests of the country at the time, adding that being a member of the program has several strings attached, making it impossible for the government to set the procurement timeline for vaccines and forcing the government for a substantial amount of investment. Thailand has now decided to join COVAX, because there have been many changes to the regulations.

He warned the Opposition MPs that their denigrating of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine may harm the bilateral relationship, adding that more than 30 million doses of the Chinese product have been administered so far in Thailand, including to many MPs, and it has saved many people from death.

He claimed the high price of Sinovac, as pointed out by the opposition, was dictated by the seller, not the buyer.

Addressing accusations that the CCSA has monopolised the power to manage every aspect related to COVID-19, he insisted that the final say still rests with the cabinet, while insisting that the lockdown restrictions imposed by the CCSA are effective in containing the disease.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)

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