Dr Taweesin: Shining the light of clarity on Covid-19 situation
A crucial weapon in the battle against any public crisis is concise information that can be understood by each and every one of us. However, since the outbreak of Covid-19, information released by the Prayut government has been anything but clear.
Already in a panic over the daily rise in infections, people nationwide are having to tackle a tsunami of information – both real and fake – while their daily lives are disrupted by stringent measures like the lockdown and night-time curfew to contain the contagion.
Worse still, with no sign of an end to the epidemic, people are losing hope and confidence in policymakers.
At a time when the public desperately needs clear and accurate information, Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, has emerged as a beacon of trustworthiness, calming nerves across the country.
The face of the 54-year-old has become a regular and reassuring sight on TV since he was appointed as spokesman for the government’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration on March 26. His job is to update the public daily about the number of Covid-19 cases, how many have recovered and how many have succumbed to the virus.
Delivering bad news every day can be difficult for even the strongest among us. But his job is to spur confidence in people when infections are dropping and let them know that there is light at the end of the tunnel when they rise.
So far, Dr Taweesin has proved to be the right man for the job. He has coped well with the pressure, and thanks to his background in psychiatry, he knows how to handle anxiety and panic.
During daily press conferences he conveys his messages gently, never issuing brusque threats to control the public with the force of law. He has repeatedly pleaded for the public to cooperate by wearing face masks outside, practising social distancing and staying at home to stop the virus from spreading.
“We plead for your collaboration. It will be better if the authorities are not driven to enforce the law. If you provide cooperation and the number [of patients] drop, then no more measures will be imposed,” Taweesin tells the press daily.
With his calm manner and willingness to answer all questions in a well-prepared, polite and non-aggressive manner, simplifying medical terms for the layman, Dr Taweesin’s messages and advice have won wide support from Thais.
“People pay attention and listen to Dr Taweesin because he is the only person with a deep knowledge of [the current situation]. The more he can make
people understand, the more beneficial it will be. We should follow what he says and advises,” commented one netizen while watching the psychiatrist on Facebook Live.
As of Monday (April 6), Thailand had recorded more than 2,200 Covid-19 infections in 66 provinces, with 26 deaths. The Kingdom stepped up measures to combat the contagion by announcing a nationwide state of emergency and a “soft” lockdown from March 26 to April 30. On April 3, the government imposed a night-time curfew from 10pm to 4am, enforced until further notice.
Born and raised in Nakhon Ratchasima province, where his family owned a grocery store, Dr Taweesin’s early life was far from easy. He was the second child of five siblings. While he was at primary school, his father lost his leg in an accident; his mother passed away in her 40s while he was in secondary school.
Dr Taweesin told Mother and Child magazine that his father’s accident was a turning point in his life, forcing him to work after school to help his family earn a living. He did lots of different jobs, including raising pigs, cooking and selling sweet snacks, manning a noodle stand, and making paper bags from newspapers.
Though Taweesin preferred art and writing, he chose to pursue medical studies in line with his parents’ wishes. They had always told him that focusing on his schoolwork and becoming a doctor would lift the family out of poverty.
After gaining a medical degree from Khon Kaen University, Dr Taweesin began his career at the Nakhon Ratchasima Psychiatry Hospital, where he had a case load of 100 to 200 patients daily.
He furthered his knowledge at the Somdet Chaopraya Institute of Psychiatry, where he also honed his communication skills by hosting radio and television programmes about mental health.
His public profile grew when he began providing information and sharing knowledge as a representative of the Department of Mental Health, and was later promoted to the post of spokesperson for the department.
By Jintana Panyaarvudh