BANGKOK: New ‘Team Thailand’ revealed as leading lights in Thai medicine who met with the Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul on Saturday. It comes as a Suan Dusit Poll suggests over 47% of the Thai public is worried and lacks confidence in the government’s handling of the virus emergency even though, so far, there has only been 1 death in the kingdom from Covid 19. However, figures revealed by the World Health Organisation on Sunday show that 40% of cases are now in the provinces outside the country’s capital, Bangkok.
Thailand’s former Minister of Public Health emerged on Sunday as the face of a new lineup of medical health professionals called into service to combat this emergency. Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn predicted that the coming week will see a spike in infections followed by stabilisation and that the outbreak will then level off if the public heeds to the government’s instructions concerning social distancing measures.
A new cadre of medical experts has emerged on Sunday to help Thailand fight the deadly coronavirus.
Former Minister of Public Health, Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, on Sunday predicted that although the number of cases of the coronavirus would climb further in the coming days and into the next week, it would thereafter stabilise and then begin to reduce in a matter of weeks.
This comes alongside rising public concern and the growing spread of the disease into provinces outside Bangkok.
Conditional on the public following advice
The former minister underlined that his optimistic outlook was conditional on the public following the advice being given by authorities as lockdown efforts are ramped up.
On Sunday, 5 provinces adjacent to Bangkok also shut shopping malls and all but essential retail outlets such as hairdressers, bowling alleys, restaurants and cafés.
Only supermarkets, convenience stores and take away food outlets are allowed to remain open.
Provinces shut shopping malls with other retail outlets and facilities on Sunday following Bangkok
The orders were issued by officials in the provinces of Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, Nakhon Pathom, Nonthaburi and Pathumthani.
A similar order was issued for Nakhon Ratchasima in northeastern Thailand by Governor Wichian Chantaranothai. The province currently has 5 Covid 19 infections.
188 new infections on Sunday bringing the total to under 600, a rise of 1000% in 11 days
Thailand, on Sunday, announced its greatest number of infections so far at 188 bringing the total number infected to just below 600.
On March 11th, the figure was 59. Although for now, the majority of cases are in Bangkok, the detected infection pattern is moving into the provinces with 13 confirmed cases in Phuket and 3 cases just confirmed in Chiang Rai.
Number of cases in provinces outside Bangkok is rising – now 40% of total infections at 236
The latest data from the World Health Organisation in Geneva shows that Thailand now has 236 cases in the provinces with 363 in Bangkok.
This shows that the growth of cases in the provinces in the last week has doubled from 20% of the total.
The government on Sunday was reported to be concerned that some people may move out of Bangkok because of business shutdowns or simply to ‘move upcountry’ and this will help spread the virus further.
‘Team Thailand’ now working with the government and public health ministry to define the response
The new medical team of experts was dubbed by the former minister of public health as ‘Team Thailand’ and follows Friday’s meeting at Government House between the Thai prime minister and a number of top medical experts and virologists who advised him to lock down urban centres.
However, this new group of medical experts was reported to be consulting with the Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charabatickul, on Saturday as the Bangkok Governor, Aswin Kwanmuang, went ahead and gave the order for the new wave of lockdowns in Bangkok.
Similar orders are now going into force in neighbouring provinces and elsewhere.
On Sunday, the former Minister of Public Health described the new ‘Team Thailand’ as the brightest brains available in the Thai medical world, many of whom are distinguished internationally.
He urged the public to follow the guidance and advice issued by the ministry.
Initial focus of experts is on Bangkok, public urged to have confidence in the medical experts
Dr Piyasakul revealed that the focus of the elite medical team was now on Bangkok’s main hospitals where doctors are treating some of the most severe cases.
Thailand, so far, has had only one death but has seven cases which are listed as serious.
One of these is a 67-year-old Belgian national with a Thai wife in Phetchabun who is being treated at a hospital in that province and is on a ventilator with acute respiratory distress syndrome.
Moving patients out of Bangkok
The former minister said some patients are being moved out of the city so that it is prepared to deal with more needy cases over the coming days.
He asked for the public’s confidence in helping to defeat the virus.
‘If Team Thailand cannot do the job, no other medical personnel will be able to do it either,’ he said.
Over 47% of the public are worried and have concerns about the government’s handling of the outbreak
It appears that the government may have their work cut out.
A Suan Dusit poll on Sunday in association with Rajabhat University, conducted from Tuesday to Saturday, showed that over 47% of people surveyed were worried about the situation and lacked full confidence in the government’s capacity to bring the outbreak under control.
Many are concerned by the fact that there is no vaccine for this virus.
45% were alarmed by reports of infections in provinces with limited medical resources for combatting the severest symptoms of the virus which requires intensive medical care including respirators.
41% in this poll support a complete lockdown
The poll also showed 41% supported a complete lockdown. This appeared lower than the 67% figure from a NIDA poll on Saturday comprising of people who supported the tightest control measures.
For now, this is being avoided by the top officials.
On Sunday, government spokeswoman Naruemon Pinyosinwat said the government would prefer if the idea of closing the country down was dismissed from the public’s mindset.
Ms Naruemon urged people to focus on the action being taken and the outcome of such measures.
Government aware of the hardships
She acknowledged the difficulties being experienced by many Thai nationals particularly those having difficulty returning home.
However, she urged patience and for people to follow the best advice of the health professionals.
She said that currently, people should be preparing themselves through social distancing measures for a further tightening of conditions if the situation does escalate.
She said that the public should only get news from official government sources.
Plans for public delivery service
Ms Narumnon also urged people to inform themselves only from a government source and official communications.
The spokeswoman for the government said that if Bangkok does have to be fully closed, plans are being put in place for a delivery service to support the public.
People should also now begin to adjust their lifestyles to staying put at home even if this means working from home.