The Director-General of the Thai Department of Disease Control held a press conference today where he spoke about the current Covid-19 situation in Thailand and revealed his optimism that the situation was improving overall in the country and would be fully handled in “a few weeks.”
Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong told the media that the current round of infections has had a total of 6,285 cases since December 15th with 7 deaths for a total mortality rate of 0.11 percent. All seven of the deaths, according to Dr. Opas, had other health issues with some of them having severe multiple health issues such as prior strokes, severe obesity, and severe diabetes. He acknowledged this round of infections had fewer deaths than prior rounds and attributed it to the severity of this round/strain being less and better medicine and knowledge of the disease from a hospital perspective. He also acknowledged that the level of asymptomatic patients was far higher, some of which he attributed to the number of young and healthy migrant workers affected who were nearly all asymptomatic.
Dr. Opas said 1,770 of the cases had more than very mild symptoms but only ten had needed to be ventilated. (Including the Samut Sakhon governor, who is reportedly recovering.)
Dr. Opas also said the current trend in infections was relatively steady, around 200 a day, without showing significant exponential increases and mostly linked to several clusters including a prominent one in Si Racha that we have covered heavily here at The Pattaya News. Dr. Opas did not feel that there was a widespread issue overall at this point.
Dr. Opas stated that although there was a total of 58 provinces that had discovered a case many of them had no new cases for the past seven days and were based on contact tracing from clusters in other provinces. Dr. Opas said the situation was improving rapidly in terms of overall spread and said the Department of Disease Control was concerned with ten main provinces at this point and clusters in those provinces primarily coming from illegal gambling, entertainment venues, and markets.
Those ten provinces are Samut Sakhon, Chon Buri, Rayong, Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Chanthaburi, Nonthaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Ang Thong, and Pathum Thani. Dr. Opas said the outlook for the other provinces was quite good although some, like Trat, were classified as “highly controlled” due to proximity to other hot zones and not because of their own disease situation.
As for the cluster in Si Racha at the Rong Beer 90, a bar and brewery, Dr. Opas stated that the situation began due to a person who came from Rayong and had caught the disease gambling at an illegal establishment which was a previous large cluster. This patient visited the 90 bar from December 27th to December 31st where they participated in a New Year’s employee event and a party which, according to Opas, was responsible for a lot of the spread. At this point, nearby Banglamung bars and entertainment venues had been closed the day before but Si Racha and Sattahip, as well as other districts, had entertainment venues were open for several more days before also being closed as it was initially believed that the primary Covid-19 situation in Chonburi was in Banglamung, stemming from another illegal gambling cluster.
Dr. Opas stated that 52 people were infected from the brewery, 40 directly and 12 indirect close contacts of those at the brewery. An additional ten were in quarantine and being monitored. The Pattaya News notes that the Chonburi Governor stated earlier today that a total of sixty people were infected from the brewery now in a conference and it is possible that some of those quarantined cases were now added to the total.
Dr. Opas also said another 69 cases in Si Racha were directly connected to illegal gambling. He stated, as did the Chonburi Governor, that initially hospital staff had issues getting people to be forthcoming about their behavior and give honest timelines but now felt everyone understood the urgency of the situation. He stated that part of the issue was that many in both the gambling and brewery groups also visited many other entertainment venues and pubs around Si Racha but, so far, none of those appeared to have turned into a significant cluster event.
Dr. Opas concluded by saying that 2,500 people connected to various venues in Si Racha were being tested for Covid-19 in proactive community screening done by medical staff who have been working through the trace and tracking process. He encouraged, however, people to come forward if they had been to any of the venues in Si Racha on timelines (we have posted all of them on the Pattaya News) over the past two weeks, especially around New Year’s.
Both the Chonburi Governor and Dr. Opas feel the situation is under control thanks to solid work by track and trace teams and the cooperation of the public in Si Racha, as well as management and ownership of venues involved. They stressed this wasn’t the fault of anyone venue and it was important people did not resort to “the blame game” but worked to resolve the situation. Dr. Opas said the situation should be able to be resolved by the end of the month with the Chonburi Governor giving a more optimistic ten-day prediction.
The Chonburi Governor declined to say when restrictions and measures that currently have restricted travel and closed Chonburi’s popular entertainment industry will be removed, however, only saying “when the situation improves.” Banglamung had zero cases of Covid-19 today for the first time in about two weeks and the Governor said he felt the cluster associated with illegal gambling had nearly been completely tracked, traced, and stomped out.