PM says the government may consider easing lockdown measures in the last week of April as two more deaths, a Chiang Mai woman and a man in Ayutthaya province remind us of the human loss. The Minister of the Digital Economy and TOT have meanwhile come forward with a plan to use converted phone boxes for expanded testing in hospitals which will become increasingly important in efforts to make sure there is not a second wave.

The Prime Minister Prayuth Chan ocha said on Wednesday that Thailand will review its lockdown measures in the last week of April as two more deaths were reported from the virus while the good news was that hospitalisations have plummeted from an April 5th peak. The country’s Digital Economy Minister has also come forward with an innovative plan to use TOT phone boxes for virus testing.

The Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan ocha has indicated that the emergency measures to halt the spread of the virus may be reviewed and eased at the end of April. (Bottom) Minister of Digital Economy Buddhipongse Punnakanta along with TOT, the Thai telephone company, has unveiled Covid 19 test boxes which are recycled old telephone boxes to be installed in hospitals to help ramp up testing for the virus.

Thailand reported 2 more deaths on Wednesday and only 30 new infections continuing a hopeful pattern which significantly has seen hospitalisations plummet from a high of 1,472 on April 5th to only 1,103 today.

Nevertheless, the details relating to the deaths give some insight into the suffering and misery of families behind the death toll which so far stands at 43 people.

One of today’s victims was a street food seller in Chiang Mai who lost consciousness on April 6th

One of today’s victims was a food seller from Chiang Mai. She died on April 13th. The 65-year-old woman suffered from diabetes and hypertension.

She lost consciousness a week ago and first became unwell on March 7th but was not diagnosed with Covid 19 until March 12th.

By March 19th, the woman had pneumonia and an enlarged heart.

She struggled with the disease despite being administered the drug favipiravir, an antiviral medicine, before lapsing into unconsciousness on April 6th. 

2nd man had returned from a religious ceremony in Indonesia, admitted with a high fever on April 2nd

The second case was a 60-year-old man who returned from a religious ceremony in Indonesia on March 24th.

By April 2nd, the man had a temperature of 38.4 degrees and muscle aches.

He was admitted to a hospital in Ayutthaya and died on April 14th.

Ban on passenger flights extended

The latest medical update comes as the country has extended its ban on incoming passenger flights until April 30th although there are signs that life in Thailand may be on the way back to something like normal. Of course, this may still be vastly altered given the economic toll these measures and the worldwide emergency have wrought.

PM said on Wednesday that crisis measures which have shut the country may be eased at the end of April

On Wednesday, the Thai prime minister suggested that the government would review the situation concerning the shutdown of economic activity and other measures in the course of the last week of April.

The PM indicated that there may be an easing of restrictions as fears for the Thai economy are growing by the day with a similar picture and dawning realisation developing in western countries.

Reports of shops opening in Nonthaburi and Udon Thani but hours later Nonthaburi move was rescinded

On Tuesday, there were mixed signals when the Governor of Nonthaburi province, Suchin Chaichumsak, indicated that department stores and shops like mobile phone outlets could be reopened subject to strict social distancing and hygiene conditions. 

However, hours later, the governor was reported to have rescinded the announcement

A similar announcement was made in Udon Thani. 

Nonthaburi, adjacent to Bangkok, has a large population of foreigners and one of the highest numbers of infections in the kingdom.

Wholesale testing facilities will be needed

It is also becoming clear that Thailand, like other countries, will need wholesale testing for the virus and associated conditions as part of any effort to return the country and its suffering economy to normal.

The ability to diagnose the status of individuals including whether they have the virus or have had the virus is critical intelligence which authorities in Thailand and other countries will be looking for.

TOT plans to use old telephone boxes for testing at hospitals – 20 have already been converted

One idea being floated is from TOT, the Thai telephone company. It has refurbished an initial batch of 20 old telephone boxes which it is proposing to install in hospitals.

The box has two holes cut out of the perspex on one side and a fan installed to keep the air pressure controlled and prevent aerosols. It is also illuminated. 

The proposed operation of the boxes would involve users being swabbed by personnel inside the box but with a change of gloves for each test. 

Brainchild of Digital Economy Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta who urged the company to play its part

The improvised telephone boxes are being called Covid boxes.

It is the brainchild of Minister of Digital Economy Buddhipongse Punnakanta who urged TOT to come up with the innovation to counter the virus threat.

The boxes were presented in recent days by senior vice president of TOT Morakot Thienmontree.

He said that each box would only cost ฿1,000 to adapt and that the company could locate thousands of them at its offices and depots throughout Thailand.

20 Covid boxes initially available

The minister told the press that 20 boxes will initially be made available for testing at hospitals nationwide.

Most of the boxes will be manufactured from units already in place at the TOT headquarters on Chaeng Watthana Road in Bangkok.

Mr Morakot cautioned that the boxes would be thoroughly cleaned but pointed to difficulties in sourcing the correct materials if large numbers were required with the company’s plans to supply hospitals and medical facilities from a range of locations.

Further reading:

Dead taxi driver in Bangkok did not die from the coronavirus but sudden heart failure on the job after rest stop

Irate self-employed go straight to the top over pernickety issues holding up Covid 19 income support payments

Different strain of virus caused the outbreak in Bangkok which plunged Thailand into a state of emergency

Challenge of defeating both a health and economic emergency a big ask for Thailand’s government in crisis mode

Progress in the fight against the Covid 19 enemy but medical expert says it will still take more time

Virus may be partially airborne and Minister right in face mask fracas according to new US research

Health Minister in an outburst against western foreigners as 7 more are infected by the coronavirus

‘Zero’ – nationwide curfew announced on TV by the PM as the government steps up virus fight

24-hour curfew in the works as the government puts curbs on national travel with checkpoints on roads

Emergency could be extended as more people present themselves at hospitals due to the coronavirus

Another record rise in infections on Monday as top virologist predicts widespread transmission in Thailand

See Thai virus data here courtesy of the Thai Ministry of Public Health