Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has delivered a speech on COVID-19 resurgence. His following speech was televised on the Television Pool of Thailand on 17 September 2020.
Brothers, sisters, citizens.
Today, I wanted to talk to you about recent unfavorable developments happening in the world with the COVID-19 pandemic, which is going to be affecting all of us.
There is a storm of infections now sweeping Europe and elsewhere in a second resurgence.
Spain’s daily infection rate is now higher than what it was during the peak of the crisis in March and April, at more than 12,000 new infections a day, with 30,000 killed.
France, too, is now reporting even higher daily infection rates than during the peak of the crisis, and at almost 10,000 new infections a day, and with more than 30,000 killed.
In the UK, the number of new infections doubled in a week, and 42,000 have already been killed.
Elsewhere in the world, in India, there are now around 90,000 new cases a day, and the United States is seeing more than 30,000 new cases daily with almost 200,000 killed.
We are well and truly in a global second wave.
While other countries hesitated, we moved decisively and quickly to contain the spread of this terrible virus in our country, right from its earliest stages. Which is why, today, we are recording new infections of less than 10 a day while these countries, that kept their borders open, now register a thousand times more new cases, daily.
Our doctors, our amazing village volunteers, nurses, and other medical and non-medical personnel were at the forefront of helping prevent the spread of the virus, while our various government departments through the CCSA (Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration) worked in a coordinated and efficient fashion.
But, most importantly, throughout the country, everyone worked as one and showed care not to spread infections, wearing masks, sanitizing hands frequently, and practicing social distancing.
With the resurgence of the virus in the world, I would now like to ask everyone to double up their alertness and not to relax and let down their guard. This battle is far from over. And while we have been doing much better than other countries, if we want it to stay that way, we must continue to show the discipline we have done to date.
Let me, also, take this opportunity to speak directly to those who wish to gather as mobs for various reasons.
When you gather in mobs you are creating an enormous risk of new infections.
And with that, you also create enormous risk to the livelihoods of tens of millions of fellow Thais.
Any major flare up of infections will lead to terrible consequences and even worse economic destruction, the likes of which we have never seen.
Please think about this.
In other countries, such gatherings and carelessness by some groups have now caused even more suffering to everyone.
In Britain, and other parts of Europe, ministers are talking about imposing new lockdowns. In Australia, its most populous state has imposed many restrictions on the opening of shops, offices, and even on leaving home.
In our country, there is already much suffering because international tourism is no longer possible. But at the very least some of our restaurants can stay open. Our coffee-shops can stay open. Our shops can stay open. Our schools can stay open. Our construction sites can stay open. Our factories can stay open. And our offices can stay open. And we can still travel within our country for domestic tourism. We should not create a situation that puts our country at risk of returning to lockdowns as we had in March and April this year, and even further increase the terrible pain of other people during this time.
Let me tell all protestors, now, loudly and clearly that I hear you have political grievances, and that you have issues with the constitution.
I respect your opinions.
But right now, our country has some very much more immediately painful issues that it must address: and that is the economic destruction brought about by COVID.
Let’s not make the situation worse than it is.
Your protests delay economic recovery because you affect business confidence, and you affect the confidence of tourists to return to our country when we are ready to receive them.
Let’s try and get through this global crisis, and defeat COVID first, together. And then we can come back to politics, again.
Many countries now forcefully disband mass gatherings because of the risk of infection. In some countries, it is not possible for people to gather together at all. In Germany, recently, when a mob of 38,000 people gathered, 300 people were arrested by the police and they face fines and court cases.
I have asked our police forces to be tolerant. I trust in the good sense of the protestors. But please think of the tens of millions of other people with whom you share this country, because mass gatherings come at a very heavy price for everyone: the risk of new infections, the risk of mass outbreaks, and the risk of a return to lockdowns.
My mission is clear: to help protect the people of Thailand from the tens of thousands of deaths as have been recorded in other countries, and from the ensuing catastrophic strain on the economy and people’s ability to earn a livelihood that a lockdown brings.
Because of that, we need to be very careful about allowing people to travel into Thailand and increasing the chances of the virus entering and creating even more suffering.
I am very conscious of the pain of those in the tourism sector. Very, very conscious. I lose sleep thinking about all those who are out of jobs and whose businesses are closed.
We really are stuck in a terrible situation where there is no painless solution. Opening our borders may bring some number of tourists back. But we also know that whenever our borders open to visitors, the virus immediately returns. Our country is not in a position to handle a widescale spread of the virus; and if it were to happen, even greater economic destruction is going to follow and affect every sector.
Brothers and sisters, we are heading for some even more difficult times ahead. It is a time to leave politics aside and work together to help each other get through this challenge that has no precedent in the history of the world. I ask everyone to keep their guard up against the virus, to keep wearing masks and practicing social distancing, and continue to show your spirit of Thai-ness and hold hands to fight together in containing the virus.