Shops begin to reopen in Thailand tentatively and to a new order. Top government doctor says the infection rate has slowed from 2.2 to 0.7 but restrictions may be reimposed if the figure rises again. The ultimate solution, for now, would be a vaccine, mass testing, herd immunity or the disappearance of the virus which Chinese researchers on Wednesday said was highly unlikely. The opening of bars, entertainment venues and Thailand’s famed nightlife scene is still some way off.

The first tentative signs of a reopening of the Thai economy came this week as the Governor of Bangkok, Aswin Kwanmuang, presented proposals which will be reviewed by the influential Communicable Disease Committee at government level. If greenlighted, it would mean 8 types of commercial premises being allowed to open on Friday with strict and onerous conditions. Indeed, a top government medical advisor has warned that the cautious move forward can be reversed at any time if the infection rate rises again.

Top government medic, Dr Prasit Wattanapa, has revealed that a government survey conducted around April 14th showed that the infection rate of the virus had fallen to 0.7 from 2.2. Dr Prasit is on a medical panel advising the Covid 19 centre which will monitor the infection rate and may order the reimposition of restrictions if required over the coming weeks if the rate is seen to increase. It comes as the first cautious steps to reopening the economy are set to begin this week with proposals by Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang to reopen 8 types of stores and outlets in the metropolitan area. This will see some retail outlets, hairdressers and restaurants reopen with strict conditions on hygiene and social distancing.

The first signals came on Tuesday that Thailand’s business sector may be reopening with the announcement from Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang that the metropolitan area lockdown measures be allowed to expire on Thursday allowing a range of businesses to reopen from Friday. This is still subject to approval by a key government committee.

However, the green light has only been given to shops and retail outlets in eight specific categories.

The ban on entertainment venues and bars remains in place and it is thought that it will be some time yet before these sort of venues switch back on the lights.

Government monitoring and reviewing the situation as a tentative easing of restrictions begins

Indeed, given the current uncertainty surrounding this virus with new and disturbing discoveries being made on a daily basis, government planners will be monitoring the initial tentative easing of lockdown measures before further steps are taken.

Communicable Disease committee to decide

The key decision will be made this week by the government’s powerful Communicable Disease Committee in respect of the limited proposal being made by metropolitan authorities.

The move would see the reopening of restaurants, sports facilities, hairdressers as well as health clinics.

Business owners face stringent controls

If given the green light, the business owners and operators will face stringent controls such as requiring appointments for haircuts rather than waiting at the shop as well as regular closures for cleaning and sanitation purposes every two hours.

In addition, all customers will be required to wear a face mask and clean their hands with soap or alcohol-based cleaning fluid while complying with physical social distancing measures.

All customers entering any premises will have to be tested for temperature.

Hairdressing staff to wear masks and face shields

This approach may also see people having to wait outside shop premises for service or come back at an agreed time as queues are also prohibited. 

For a hairdressing salon, staff will be required to wear both a face mask and face shield as they attend to customers.

Move to reopen approved by medical experts

The move to ease restrictions on small business was approved by key medical experts who stress that caution must still be observed and social distancing efforts employed to keep this virus at bay.

Professor Dr Prasit Wattanapa, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital is on the medical panel which advises the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

He said on Tuesday that the government would move carefully step by step in its attempts to reopen the economy.

The goal will be to prevent a second wave of the infection from striking the kingdom.

This ‘new normal’ will call for self-discipline from business owners and the public alike.

Survey shows that the infection rate has slowed

Dr Prasit drew attention to a survey conducted on April 14th last which showed that the infection rate had been reduced from 2.2 to 0.7 per person infected, by the lockdown measures.

This is the measurement of how many people each carrier infects.

Situation to be reviewed every 14 days

The top medic revealed that the situation will be assessed by the Covid 19 centre every 14 days. 

He warned that as well as the further easing of restrictions, the government may also have to reinstate the measures if the infection rate rises again.

At least a year for a widely available vaccine to be on hand as clinical trials are conducted worldwide

Dr Prasit, like many other top officials and medical experts, has indicated that he believes it will take at least a year for a vaccine to become available as clinical trials are being conducted worldwide.

This comes as there is sobering news that clinical trials on Hydroxychloroquine, a drug which had shown efficacy in dealing with the virus, has initially shown disappointing results.

However, on Wednesday, the US firm Gilead Science reported, contrary to initial speculation, that its drug Remdesivr did well in a large scale trial conducted by the US government.

80 different drugs being tested

There are now approximately 80 drugs being clinically tested as countries and scientists rush to find an effective vaccine.

One exciting product is a treatment for the flu called Neumifil produced by an offshoot company of the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

This drug is now being rushed into clinical trials and if successful, it could be used as a nasal spray which would prevent the virus molecules from latching on to lung cells which is how Covid 19 ultimately wreaks health damage on those the virus successfully targets.

Nasal spray product in Scotland appears promising

Lab tests conducted in the UK by Public Health England have shown promising results.

Gary Taylor is the lead researcher at the University of St Andrews.

 He outlined the treatment to the Daily Mail on Tuesday: ‘Classic antivirals actually attack some part of the virus’s machinery, whereas our drug actually inhibits the virus from even getting into cells. Our drug binds to sugar molecules which are on the surface of all cells in the respiratory tract. These same types of carbs are on the surfaces of virus spike proteins, which it uses to enter cells.’

If the drug proves successful, it could become a nasal spray product used by people susceptible to the infection. ‘We envision it being given as a nasal spray, and imagine it being given weekly or every other day,’ Mr Taylor said.

Further reading:

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