Government urges the public to cut back on all socialising for the New Year as fears grow. The Centre for Covid 19 Situation Administration spokesman, Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, has warned that if effective controls are not applied by either local authorities, business concerns and the public, the kingdom could see daily infection numbers of over 10,000 by mid-January. Even in the best-case scenario, he is predicting hundreds of infections per day. A fullscale national lockdown cannot now be ruled out but it is still in the hands of the public who are being urged to make sure to wear face masks in all public spaces.
Thailand’s Situation for Covid-19 Administration, through its spokesman Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, has cautioned the public that January 2021 could see Covid-19 cases being detected in the tens of thousands per day and that, even with intensive measures, between now and then, to alter the trajectory of the spread of infection, the kingdom was already certain to see hundreds of new infections per day. The number of provinces infected has already risen to 45. Dr Taweesilp said the infections in the kingdom were ‘soaring’ and that the country was facing a far more serious outbreak than that of earlier in the year. He insisted, at the same time, that the government was giving the public a chance to avoid a second and potentially devastating national lockdown for the economy.
The government has warned that cases of the Covid-19 virus are currently taking off across the kingdom and that by mid-January, without the cooperation of the public and intensive efforts against the spread, the kingdom could be seeing cases per day in the tens of thousands.
This alarming prognosis was made by the spokesman for the Covid-19 Situation Administration, Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, only on Monday which he tempered later by saying that with full public cooperation, it would be possible to reduce the curve of the spread by 45 degrees to a limiting instead of expanding trajectory.
However, even in this situation, the government spokesman still predicted that mid-January could see cases in the hundreds per day range.
Number of new cases is ‘soaring’ in Thailand
‘The number of new cases is soaring,’ Dr Taweesilp said on Tuesday as the extent of the current emergency grows.
The spokesman for the CCSA made it clear that what Thailand is facing is indeed a second wave and that it is already more serious than that seen earlier this year which provoked a nationwide lockdown.
On Tuesday, the kingdom reported 155 new cases of the disease followed by 144 cases on Monday. The Covid 19 disease has now spread to 45 provinces with particular concern that it is spreading in Bangkok, Chonburi, Nakhon Pathom and Rayong provinces.
Fears that New Year’s holidays could make the situation even worse as the government urges people to cut back on all socialising at this time
The fears over what may happen in the days running up to and after December 31st and New Year’s socialising is especially concerning for authorities. This is a time of year when many Thais, working in urban centres, travel home to be with their families in rural areas for a week or an extended few days.
The advice from the government is clear. Cut down or cut out any socialising if possible this year.
‘If nothing is done, daily new cases could soar to four or five digits this month or by the middle of next month,’ Dr Taweesilp explained at a public briefing on Monday. ‘But if we cooperate with one another, the curve will be 45 degrees and daily new cases will be at three digits.’
Dr Taweesilp highlights that a curb on all social activity is the key.
‘The best solution is to refrain from socialising, and then the graph will run flat,’ he advised.
Officials still trying to avert a national lockdown
The government spokesman explained to the public, over the past few days, that while the situation is more serious than earlier in the year, the government is doing everything in its power to avoid a full lockdown such as that which decimated the Thai economy from the second quarter.
Economic experts have warned the government that a second full-scale lockdown would be calamitous. This comes as the latest economic data reveals the economic recovery extending from October to November.
Dr Taweesilp found some comfort in the fact that the government was more informed and prepared for the virus on this occasion. There was also no shortage of face masks as authorities have made it clear that all Thais, throughout the kingdom, should be wearing face masks in public at this time.
All depends now on the reaction of the public
Dr Taweesilp said the extent of what measures the government will be forced to take, in the coming days and weeks, now lies in the hands of the public.
‘So whether or not the disease control measures will be intensified will depend on how much the public cooperates. If we cooperate, there will be no need to enforce the law, impose lockdowns or a curfew. The government doesn’t want to impose restrictions,’ he said.
Bangkok imposed ‘maximum’ control measures as red zone provinces near the metropolis grow
To that end, the government is currently suggesting that intensive control efforts be taken by authorities in areas where there is already a strong outbreak of infection.
These are red zone provinces which now include Bangkok, Samut Sakhon, Nakhon Pathom, Chonburi and Rayong where all public gatherings are banned and local authorities are encouraged to take more decisive steps to restrict the disease. This has already led to the closure of bars and entertainment venues.
On Monday, the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority confirmed the closure of bars and entertainment venues until, at least, the first week of 2021, saying the order was necessary given the rising danger of infections spreading.
Maximum Control Zones and Control Zones require cooperation from officials, businesses and the public
The government is now designated these as Maximum Control Zones with additional measures being deployed quarantining people deemed at high risk after coming into contact with infected people.
In the ‘Maximum Control Zones’, public transportation is also subject to controls while the movement of migrant workers is suspended as well as other restrictions on businesses.
Provinces in orange zones or with infections of over 10 on record, are designated ‘Control Zones’. In these areas, high-risk activities linked with crowds are banned.
The leading government spokesman said the efficacy of these measures depends on the action of local authority officials, businesses and the public as well as their ability to cooperate right now.
Second wave of the virus is here with the best-case scenario for mid-January projected by the government at hundreds of cases per day
With all this, Dr Taweesilp warned that, as things currently stand, even with moderate control measures, Thailand may still see 8,000 cases per day recorded by mid-January and even with intensive measures, the government was forecasting a figure of just below 1,000 cases per day.
In recent days, Dr Yong Poovorawan, one of Thailand’s leading virologists has urged the government to expedite its vaccination programme as he forecasted that the second wave is already underway throughout the kingdom.
Deal signed for 26 million vaccine doses with AstraZeneca in November with vaccine programme scheduled for the latter half of 2021
Thailand signed a deal at the end of November with UK Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca for 26 million doses of the company’s vaccine which despite some initial controversy, has now been shown to be 95% effective just as with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and easier to distribute.
The Thai cabinet had earlier approved funding of ฿6 billion for the initial doses of the vaccine.
It is understood that these earlier inoculations are earmarked for use among public health workers and the most vulnerable in Thailand including the elderly.
However, Thailand’s plan to roll out a widespread vaccination programme is only scheduled for the second half of 2021.
Urgency of rolling out the vaccination programme will become more acute if deaths from the second wave of the virus in Thailand rise with one death already
On Sunday, Minister of Public Health, Anutin Charnvirakul said that the government was committed to making the vaccine available free of charge to every Thai person.
He pointed to a manufacturing agreement between AstraZeneca and local Thai firm Siam Bioscience which is already developing a plant to produce the vaccine in Thailand from the middle of the year at a rate of 15 million doses a day.
The urgency of the situation may grow as Thailand, on Tuesday, announced its first new death in the growing outbreak, an infected person associated with a gambling den cluster in Rayong.
Thai engineered vaccines also coming on stream
Last week, Minister Anutin’s cabinet colleague and fellow Bhumjaithai Party minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, indicated that Thailand would not be rushing to roll out its vaccination programme as it wishes, first of all, to see how rapid vaccination programmes currently underway in the United States and Europe worked out. He warned that Thailand would not be a ‘guinea pig’ in this regard.
Thailand’s Chulalongkorn and Mahidol universities are also developing their own vaccines which are likely to be released early next year.