Thailand’s daily infections could possibly reach 30,000 cases by the end of February and could affect activities during the upcoming Songkran festival, Thailand’s biggest holiday scheduled in April, a representative from the Ministry of Public Health stated today, February 9th.
Dr. Chakrarat Pittayawonganon, Director of the Bureau of Epidemiology under the Public Health Ministry, gave an interview this afternoon that the Covid-19 situation assessment around the world proved that foreign countries in Europe and America are in a downtrend of the outbreak with less infections while many countries in Asia, including Thailand, is in an uptrend with higher numbers of cases.
He told the press: “The main reason was because we opened more activities and social activities have increased greatly. Only pubs, bars, nightclubs, karaoke lounges, basically the nighttime economy is not opened for service as usual but many have opened with permission as modified restaurants. Now we are almost living normally, so it wasn’t surprising that the infections are increasing. However, we don’t want the public to be overly concerned about “cases” but rather look at the number of critically ill patients and deaths which were decreasing and stable.”
The Director also revealed that there were about 90,000 cases currently being treated at either hospitals, hospitels (quarantine hotels), or at homes under the Home Isolation program. About 90 percent of them were having mild symptoms or were asymptomatic. Only 111 hospital cases were having severe symptoms or on ventilation, accounting for 0.1 percent. The Public Health Ministry would try to keep the number to be below 200 cases/day.
Dr. Chakrarat continued: “In this current wave of the Omicron variant, the infections are higher but the severity is still low. However, in the next 2-3 weeks, there will likely be a higher number of critical patients and deaths because it was expected that the number of infections would reach its highest level of the outbreak by the end of this month or around the beginning of next month and as we predicted in models that if we didn’t have any preventive measures, the daily numbers could reach 30,000 cases per day.”
“And how long will we have that number? It all depends on the measures that the government uses to control the situation. If the public cooperated, it wouldn’t last long.” Dr. Chakrarat added.
“Another concern was that if the infection rate was still high and our hospital system was still potentially at risk, it was likely that we couldn’t hold the Songkran festival for another year, which would be the third year in a row basically that the festival was canceled. (TPN notes that travel was allowed last year for Songkran, although “fun” activities like water play, concerts, parades, parties, etc. were banned and all bars and entertainment venues were shut. In 2020, even travel was banned and there was a total alcohol sales ban. Thailand has not had a “normal” Songkran since 2019.). So, the authorities need to help communicate to the public that everyone needs to get a booster shot especially in high-risk groups, and strictly follow preventive measures.” Dr. Chakrarat concluded.
Dr. Chakrarat stressed that “nobody” wanted to cancel the Thai New Year (Songkran) once again but if cases remained high and people did not comply with control measures authorities could have no choice.
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