Covid chaos between Bangkok province and central government draws fire from both sides of the aisle

Coalition and opposition parliamentarians joined voices Tuesday to slam recent contradictions between the orders from Bangkok city officials and those from national health authorities over measures to fight the surging Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s not that they are even miscommunicating, it’s obvious that they have not been talking to each other at all,” Paradorn Prisnanantakul, Bhumjaithai Party spokesman, told Thai Enquirer, adding that the confusion was eroding public trust.

On Monday, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) announced that five temporarily closed businesses categories including public parks would reopen on June 1, or Tuesday.

Hours later, the government’s Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said they could not do that and had to wait until the CCSA’s next assessment on June 14 before relaxing any measures in the capital. Parks in the city were not open Tuesday.

The third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which started at entertainment venues in Bangkok and surrounding provinces on April 1, has totalled 133,159 cases and 975 deaths as of Tuesday. More than 42,000 cases were found in the capital alone.

Paradorn said the two agencies should have talk to each other first before publishing new measures next time to avoid more public confusion.

The back-and-forth over reopening this week “will also lower the level of public trust in the CCSA,” he said. “It is not even CCSA’s fault as the BMA are supposed to be under the authority of the CCSA.”

The leader of the Bhumjaithai Party, Anutin Charnvirakul, is also the Health Minister, and the ministry is part of the CCSA.

“They were supposed to ask for permission from the CCSA at the first place but they acted arbitrarily instead,” Paradorn added.

Pichai Naripthaphan, the Deputy Leader of the Pheu Thai Party, said the government was being “very disorganized.”

He said that the CCSA is not only in conflict with the BMA but also with the Ministry of Public Health. This shows a problem in managing the crisis while more and more people are getting infected and dying, he said.

He also said that factions are fighting to be in the spotlight because Bangkok elections are coming up.

The BMA is concerned about people in the capital suffering from the partial lockdown and so wants to open up, Pichai said. But the CCSA is more worried about the worsening outbreak and wants to restrict movements and contact around the capital.

With such clear differences, he said the two agencies must talk to each other and be transparent to improve public trust.

Concerns have been growing since last week that infighting between different agencies could be hurting the country’s response to the crisis.

Rangsiman Rome, an MP from the Move Forward Party, said the opposition have been criticizing this infighting and conflicting orders for a long time, but the government does not seem inclined to make changes.  

“If the government is unable to make changes in the way they communicate with the people, it really shows that they are failing at everything that they do,” he said.

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