Professor and Doctor Prasit Watanapa, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, discussed with the Associated Press today, February 20th, around the current situation with Covid-19 in Thailand, stating that the number of new infections of the Omicron variant would expectedly continue to increase while the fatality rate would be stable or likely to decrease.
However, according to Prof. Dr. Prasit, who has been an advisor to the Thai Government on Covid-19, said that a particularly concerning number was the rate of critically ill patients with pneumonia or who needed the support of ventilators. The number of critical patients with pneumonia had increased from 500 cases nationally in the past few weeks to 749 cases currently while the number of patients on ventilators has also risen from about 100 to 184.
“In the case of more contagious infections but less of a mortality rate, it is because of more immunization rates in the community, both from vaccines and prior infections. But this doesn’t mean that you could let your guard down and get infected. It just meant that our public health system was still manageable,” said Prof. Dr. Prasit.
The doctor also stated that the Songkran festival this year may be different from the past two Covid-19 years as more than 70 percent of the total population had received at least a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and 25 percent had been shot with a booster dose. This was expected to increase significantly in the next several months. The last two years, there were little to no vaccines available and Covid-19 had not been widespread in the Kingdom.
In 2020, TPN notes, Songkran was canceled entirely, with travel restrictions, curfews, bans on alcohol sales, closures of entertainment venues, bans on gatherings, and other measures. In 2021, travel was (controversially) allowed, but only small religious and ceremonial activities were permitted and all “fun” activities, like water play, concerts, festivals, etc were banned. Bars and entertainment venues were closed (Technically still are almost a year later, as they are currently converted restaurants) and parties for the holiday were also banned.
Dr. Prasit added: “If the Thai authorities accelerated the booster injection, especially to at-risk groups and the elderly, I believe that Songkran in April this year should be different in a positive way from last year…Of course, parties, water fights, entertainment, and similar activities might not be able to happen again, but people would be able to travel and return to their hometown and pay respect to their elders according to Thai traditions, holding a “regular” but traditional Songkran.”
The booster vaccination must be accelerated to as many people as possible, starting today, and should be done before April according to the doctor. Dr. Prasit also cited that some countries that had completely relaxed Covid-19 measures had more than 50 percent of their population vaccinated with a booster dose and believed Thailand should aim for the same.
The doctor added: “The recent New Year and Chinese New Year festivals had proved that the government’s public health care system could handle more cases of Covid-19 and that some infections with mild symptoms or asymptomatic could enter Home Isolation, or HI, rather than a hospital. But the HI must be conducted strictly.”
“This Songkran will be another test, so the government should be well prepared and proceed with vaccinations quickly. We must pay attention to and follow up on vaccination numbers in March. If the infection was up and kept stable at around 20,000 per day while the number of the vaccinations had increased, then, the government should discuss how relaxed the Songkran period would be. We know everyone wants a happy and joyous Songkran Festival and need to work together to do this.” Dr. Prasit concluded.
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