Speaking to the media at Government House, Gen Prayut said that although Thailand has, so far, managed to flatten the infection curve, the nation cannot afford to lower its guard, reports the Bangkok Post.
“What we are concerned about most is people’s health. This will determine what can and cannot be done,” the prime minister noted.
If the current restrictions imposed to control the COVID-19 pandemic are to be safely eased, there must still be some measures in place to prevent a resurgence in infections, he said.
The government is nevertheless concerned about people’s livelihoods, their incomes and other daily activities, Gen Prayut said.
“The government has always had two things in mind. Keeping people healthy is the primary concern, and the secondary concern is to keep the economy running. The government must come up with measures to address these two issues, though it has to spend the money carefully so that it will not be in trouble in the future,” Gen Prayut said.
He said that while the government will do everything in its power to solve the problem, it is also ready to listen to the opinions of those outside the administration.
The prime minister said that even though the number of new daily cases has fallen and remains low, this does not mean the country is now safe as the virus has struck more than 200 countries and there will remain a risk of new infections coming from overseas.
The most important thing is to prevent transmission from abroad and ensure Thais comply with disease control measures, including social distancing, Gen Prayut said.
The prime minister again defended the letters he sent to business leaders asking them to help people affected by the pandemic through assistance projects.
He reiterated that he wanted to find out how they have helped their employees and ask for suggestions on how to tackle the economic slowdown caused by the crisis.
He insisted that the government is responsible for sorting out the problem transparently and efficiently.
Also on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that his ministry has forwarded to the prime minister proposed guidelines on how to proceed after the enforcement of the emergency decree expires on April 30.
The proposals came from medical experts and epidemiologists, Mr Anutin said while stressing that it is important to pursue a gradual return to normality.
The prime minister will make a decision on whether to maintain the state of emergency by taking into account all aspects covering public health and security, Mr Anutin said.
He added that the public cannot yet return to their normal lives because there is still no vaccine against the virus, and they still need to maintain social distancing, continue to work from home and wear face masks.
Meanwhile, Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), said on Friday that even though new infections remain low, the country cannot afford to risk allowing a second wave to occur that might overburden the healthcare system.
The government does not have enough funding and has to borrow money to handle the pandemic. If there are more patients, this will cost a lot more, he said.
It is calculated that one patient costs about B1 million to treat. So far, there have been more than 2,000 cases, which has cost more than B2 billion in health expenses, Dr Taweesilp said, adding that even a low rate of infection can prove economically costly.
The CCSA on Friday reported 15 new COVID-19 cases, raising the national total to 2,854. There were no new deaths.
Dr Taweesilp said the low number of new cases each day now was the result of people cooperating with disease control measures over the past seven to 14 days.