In the early days of the pandemic, it was common for people to talk about the day “when Covid-19 is over,” and people were daydreaming of a return to something that resembled 2019 picturing a world where people no longer had to follow any public health measures or wearing mandatory masks and hoping that the mandatory social distancing be banished to history.
As 2022 comes closer to its end, the world is living in those daydreamed hopes — the pandemic, as a social phenomenon, has largely ceased to exist. But of course, the possibility of ever truly being “finished” with the pandemic has eluded us since mid-2020, when several governments around the world gave up on elimination.
Infections, hospitalizations, deaths: all of these continue every day. But under the rationale that vaccines and treatments now exist that make coexisting with Covid possible, governments are getting ready to move on.
Thailand is no exception. Almost all mitigating measures have been dropped. Mask mandates have been eased, although masking remains essentially universal. Now, the government has targeted October as the month where the coronavirus will be declared as endemic; from then, provincial committees will assume responsibility for dealing with the virus.
The government has even mooted ending the quasi-permanent state of emergency, the extension of which has become so routine that few even notice any longer.
“The goal,” Thailand’s Covid center spokesman Dr. Taweesilp Vasanuyothin said, “is for people to be able to coexist safely with Covid-19 and live normal lives.”
It is a logical end-goal, and the government has certainly ensured that in the past several months people return to living normal lives. The initial part of the statement, however, deserves scrutiny: can people truly coexist safely with Covid-19?