As a series of new Covid-19 clusters prompt factory shutdowns and losses to business and the economy, a top banker has warned the shambolic vaccine rollout could cripple Thailand’s manufacturing industry.
“We need quick vaccination before the coronavirus outbreak devastates our manufacturing sector,” said Payong Srivanich, chairman of the Thai Bankers’ Association. “Our economy can’t take another hit to the industrial sector, with exports being the only key growth driver now.”
From the biggest food conglomerate to the largest rubber producer, new infections among workers have forced companies to temporarily halt production for testing and disinfection. Charoen Pokphand Foods Plc closed one of its plants after hundreds of workers tested positive for the virus, while Sri Trang Gloves Thailand Plc shut two factories that account for about half of its daily production capacity.
These factory clusters are spread among several provinces, and have become the latest sources of new infections as the government, private businesses and ordinary citizens struggle to curb Thailand’s worst virus wave since the pandemic began. Since the resurgence began in early April, infections have spread from Bangkok’s night-entertainment venues into the capital city’s crowded communities, prisons and construction-worker camps.
With Thailand’s current pace of vaccine rollout restricted by limited supplies, it could take until at least the end of this year for 70% of the population to be fully inoculated. Some 3.6 million doses of vaccines have been administered, only enough to cover 2.5% of the population. The slow deployment risks leading to more infections, threatening the government’s plan for economic recovery and tourism reopening.
“If many more factories are forced to be closed with more outbreak, exports will ultimately be affected,” Mr Payong said, adding that demand for Thai products is rising as economies of many trade partners are recovering.