2 More COVID Deaths Reported, Anutin Insists Vaccine On the Way

A COVID-19 testing station in Pathum Thani on Feb. 12, 2021.

BANGKOK — Two more COVID-19 deaths were reported as the government faced a no-confidence vote from the opposition for its alleged mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters before the parliamentary session, health minister and deputy prime minister Anutin Charnvirakul said he was confident that the health ministry’s efforts to contain the pandemic over the past year would hold up during the debate. Anutin, who had a series of gaffe under his belt, was marked as the prime target by the opposition for its broadsides.

“How can people who aren’t doing work related to the vaccine know as much as people who are working?” Anutin said. “I’ve been working since COVID-19 first broke until now, that’s why the situation is under control.”

Anutin also said that the first lot of Sinovac vaccines would arrive on Feb. 24, after a series of delays. The opposition has often criticized the government for its management of the pandemic, which saw a second wave of infections fanning out of a shrimp market in Samut Sakhon in December.

The health minister said the crisis would have been worse without the government’s efforts to curb the virus.

“All of this is possible due to the work of medical officials, nurses, Ministry of Health officials, health volunteers, and citizens,” Anutin told reporters. “At least, I’m lucky I’m not being accused of corruption, so thank you to the opposition for that.”

Opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit had raised doubts over the government’s efforts to secure vaccines through a palace-owned company in January. Anutin replied to Thanathorn via an open letter a few days later, stating that the government’s purchase of 61 million AstraZeneca doses and 2 million Sinovac doses “are the best choice for Thais and Thailand.”

Two additional deaths related to the coronavirus were announced on Monday, pushing the pandemic death toll to 82.

The first is a 62-year-old vegetable vendor from Ubon Ratchathani who had pre-existing conditions of diabetes, liver disease, and high blood pressure. She died on Sunday.

The other is a 78-year-old man from Samut Sakhon who caught the disease from his daughter. He died on Saturday.

The government pandemic center announced 72 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, 48 of them from active case-finding operations. No new deaths were reported.