A leading Thai doctor has suggested a lockdown of Bangkok for at least seven days to help control the number of people currently in hospitals for Covid-19 and give medical staff some breathing room.
However, so far, the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration, or CCSA, has disagreed.
Associate Professor Dr. Nithipat Jearakul, Head of the Department of Respiratory Disease and Tuberculosis Department at Siriraj Hospital made the announcement this morning, which prompted a reaction from CCSA spokesperson Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin this afternoon. Dr. Nithipat is not the only doctor to have recently suggested this, with other prominent doctors like Dr. Thira Woratanarat also stating it would help control the situation.
According to Dr. Nithipat, a short and strict total lockdown of Bangkok would help hospitals struggling with Covid-19 patients in the capital have some breathing room. Bangkok is the current epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country as well as some surrounding provinces. The call comes on the day the country had 51 deaths, a new record, which according to Dr. Nithipat is due to strain on the medical system.
Dr. Nithipat also stated that the recent loosening of restrictions should be rolled back and were contributing to the problem. Dr. Thira, meanwhile, has stated several times over the last week that he felt it was inappropriate to be planning to reopen the country and allow foreign tourists, even vaccinated, into Phuket until Thailand can move further along with vaccinations and recovery of the current outbreak.
This comes as the number of hospital beds available for patients in Bangkok has been under heavy stress, including intensive care beds, according to multiple hospitals in the capital.
Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin from the CCSA, however, said that although the CCSA and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration had heard proposals from doctors about a short lockdown of Bangkok they are so far against it but not for economic reasons. According to Dr. Taweesin, any sort of lockdown, even with an attempt to be strictly enforced with multiple checkpoints and controls, would still lead to many people fleeing the city to their home provinces or to places, not under lockdown, potentially spreading the Covid-19 disease further into parts of the country such as the Northeast where there were few, or in some cases no, confirmed cases in some time. In Bangkok, a large majority of the working population are not from Bangkok but from rural provinces which have largely controlled the virus. The fear is that a shutdown would lead to people fleeing the city, even with every attempt to make it a strict lockdown.
For now, the CCSA was not considering the proposal and was focused on the “sealed” approach in which they shut down known clusters, mostly found currently at construction camps, factories, and markets, and restricted the access of those who worked and lived in those areas, essentially doing “selected” lockdowns rather than overall lockdowns.