Residents of Klong Toey receive their second dose of Covid-19 vaccine. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
What would you do if you were a government faced with a (rapidly) plummeting economy, declining tax revenues, increasing public and private debts, drying up national liquidity, and weak economic relief programs? ?
You give people hope and reasons to dream. Even if you know it very well, it is unlikely that such hopes and dreams will come true. The hope is that in October Thailand will open the country to foreign tourists, and with tourist dollars and normalization of economic activities, the economy will improve significantly. A light at the end of the tunnel, in fact.
Hope is based on the theory of “collective immunity”. The theory is that after about 70% of the community (the herd) is immune to a disease, the rest will be protected and there will be no one to infect them. As a result, the whole community is safe. For example, if you have a flock of 100 sheep, you should only vaccinate 70 sheep.
Since 70 sheep are disease free, the remaining 30 sheep have virtually no chance of contracting the disease from the flock. Obviously, this theory is only effective when the herd is raised on a closed farm. If you keep your sheep in an open field, your unvaccinated sheep are at risk of contracting diseases from other flocks roaming a large open field.
In short, the “collective immunity” theory does not go well with the concept of “opening up the country” because it is like opening your farm to dangerous sheep.
To achieve collective immunity for Thai citizens, the government plans to vaccinate 70% of the population, or about 50 million people by about October 14.
But due to the short timeframe, only one dose of vaccine should be given as opposed to the two doses of vaccine recommended by most manufacturers.
There are four hurdles to overcome before Thailand can achieve collective immunity and can safely open up to foreign visitors.
First, the prevention of “dangerous” visitors. The government knows that the concept of collective immunity is only applicable in a closed environment. This is why the World Health Organization (WHO) has said repeatedly that the world will not be safe from the coronavirus until the whole world is vaccinated.
Therefore, the government will only allow foreign visitors who have received two vaccines to enter the kingdom. We all know that vaccines are not meant to prevent the transmission of disease, but to keep people from getting very sick from the virus.
In fact, no vaccine manufacturer claims that their vaccines have the ability to slow transmission.
According to a study by Public Health England conducted with 365,000 samples, vaccination with the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk of transmission of the virus by 40 to 60%, which means that about half of foreign guests may be carriers of the virus. ‘a virus of unknown origin. Scary? It would be more frightening if the vaccination is done with other brands of vaccine.
Second, the mutation of the virus. The coronavirus is mutating faster than humans can invent good vaccines. At the beginning of last year when the pandemic started we had the original “Wuhan” strain which is now almost obsolete and therefore no Greek code name is given.
Next is the British version (Alpha), first detected in September 2020, to replace Wuhan. Soon after, Alpha lost its dominant status to the powerful Indian strain (Delta), as 91% of new infections in Britain are caused by the Delta strain.
The Indian version has a transmissibility rate 2.5 times faster than Wuhan and is ready to take over the world. Not to be outdone, the South American continent has developed the Brazil strain (Gamma) and a new kid on the block, the Peru strain (Lambda) which is known to be quite deadly.
Of course, we must not forget the South African version (Beta) which can put the Astra Zeneca vaccine to shame because it is only effective against the virus at 10.4%.
The least dangerous of all – aside from the original Wuhan strain – is the American strain (Epsilon) which has the slowest rate of transmission.
According to the Department of Medical Sciences, the presence of coronavirus strains in Thailand is as follows: 88.9% for Alpha (Great Britain), 10.4% for Delta (India) and 0.6% for Beta (South Africa). South).
A prominent doctor has predicted that the Delta strain will invade Thailand within 2-3 months. This is not surprising because Darwin’s Law of Natural Selection says that stronger species will gain the upper hand over weaker ones. Research in England shows that the Delta strain can spread 67% faster than the Alpha strain.
Third, the effectiveness of a single vaccine. Most vaccines require two injections to be fully effective. It is well known that the first injection of Sinovac is as good as an injection of vitamins. According to studies by Public Health England and the world-renowned Institut Pasteur in France, a dose of AstraZeneca has almost no protective power against the Delta strain, while a dose of Pfizer offers protection from 32% against the strain. The protective power improved considerably after two shots.
In light of the possibility of the Delta strain dominating the world, doctors agree that two shots of the vaccine seem necessary.
Fourth, the speed of inoculation. To reach the goal of one dose by mid-October, we need to inoculate 376,029 people per day. And to reach the goal of two doses by the end of the year, we need to vaccinate 470,971 people per day. The average actual inoculation over the past two weeks is just under 250,000 people per day.
I do not see how the government can overcome these obstacles. Therefore, I can only conclude that the opening of the country is the most unlikely in October. At a minimum, Thai citizens will need two injections of quality vaccines before such an event occurs, which means the earliest date is January 1, 2022.
With the light at the end of the tunnel fading day by day, does the government have a plan B for the economy? If the government is unable to revive the economy, how about stabilizing it. Can I suggest the idea of ”economic hibernation” while waiting for the right time to open up the country? It is not a crazy idea. Even the World Bank has an article about it.
I will write more on the subject in due course.