Key source of concern is a spreading cluster of infections linked with pubs and entertainment venues in Bangkok with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan confirming that the Japanese ambassador to Thailand is being treated in the city for the disease and fears for Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow who was reported to have visited one of the establishments in the Thong Lor district of the capital.
Thailand appears to be on the cusp of an emerging third wave of the Covid-19 virus with emerging clusters of infection in Bangkok and other areas around the country. Over the weekend, the Director-general of the Department of Disease Control, Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, gave details of clusters linked with pubs and entertainment venues in Bangkok while on Sunday, top medical expert Dr Yong Poovorawan warned of a third and even a fourth wave of infection before herd immunity is achieved worldwide. He indicated this may take up to two years. It also comes with confirmation that the Japanese ambassador in Bangkok is being treated for Covid-19 while rumours surround the medical condition of Deputy PM Supattanapong Punmeechaow.
Thailand’s leading expert on the Covid-19 virus and top virologist at the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University has raised the alarm suggesting that the kingdom could be facing a third wave of the virus or even a possible fourth wave before the country can bring about herd immunity meaning inoculation of 70% of the population.
He was speaking after a spike in infections has arisen centred on Bangkok where pubs and entertainment venues have given rise to spreading clusters of infection.
Dr Yong Poovorawan made the pronouncement on his public Facebook page following information released on Friday and over the weekend by the Department of Disease Control.
Dr Yong: worldwide vaccination of the population reaching 70% herd immunity may take two years
On Sunday, as Ministry of Public Health officials revealed that the cluster of infection surrounding the pubs and hostelries particularly in the Thong Lor district, had risen to 71, Dr Yong who is a strong advocate of a rapid vaccination process as the solution to the virus emergency, indicated that he feared it may take two years for governments around the world to inoculate 70% of their populations.
Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow at the centre of swirling rumours after being linked with a Thong Lor venue, involved in the virus cluster
The latest outbreak has raised anxiety in government circles with swirling rumours of high profile people becoming infected in Bangkok.
Not least was a rumour that Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow had become infected after patronising one of the venues linked with the Covid-19 cluster in Thong Lor prior to last Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.
A source within the minister’s office has denied the speculation but did say that the Minister of Energy was tested at a state hospital in Udon Thani this weekend and was scheduled to be vaccinated.
Prison system closed to visitors
There are also reports of clusters in other parts of Thailand including an outbreak among prison officials and inmates at Narathiwat Prison in southern Thailand and one in Khon Kaen province.
The outbreak has led to prison visits across the kingdom being cancelled by the Corrections Department.
Khon Kaen deputy governor says Songkran will go ahead in spite of mounting fears at this time
In Khon Kaen, the Srinagarind Hospital announced a suspension of treatment for new patients as well as operations at the facility after two doctors at the medical facility tested positive for the disease.
The province, in northeastern Thailand’s Isan region, has also seen other cases but the Deputy Governor of the province Jaruek Laoprasert insists that the planned Songkran festival celebrations will still go ahead.
Dr Yong predicts a spike after the holidays in Thailand and blames the setback on public complacency
This is a matter of heightened concern for Dr Yong who believes that Covid-19 infection rates will spike because of traditional holiday activities this year. He also sounded a note of disappointment
‘Be prepared to see the daily infection rates jump from tens to hundreds per day after the Songkran festival,’ he said on Sunday. ‘We have become too complacent and that means we need to waste a lot of financial resources for testing, monitoring and curing the disease.’
Police getting tough in Bangkok and will visit all premises in the city while opening a probe into those linked with the virus cluster checking for breaches
In Bangkok, the Deputy Police Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Lieutenant General Piya Tawichai, has ordered police chiefs in each area where there are pubs and entertainment venues linked to the current cluster of infection, to open up an investigation to ensure that all were complying with strict regulations laid down by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
He disclosed he would also be instructing police to ensure that staff at all such establishments are being isolated with officers across the city instructed to begin a campaign of inspection of all licenced premises to see that Covid-19 measures are being implemented.
A full city sweep will be carried out.
He said that police will prosecute all those found to be non-compliant.
Japanese ambassador contracts Covid-19
It was also confirmed on Saturday that the Japanese ambassador to Thailand, Kazuya Nashida, was being treated at a hospital in Bangkok for the Covid-19 disease.
The statement came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo.
‘Employees who are suspected of having close contact with the ambassador are quarantined at home and being monitored,’ the ministry’s statement said.
Top city restaurant closes for ‘deep cleaning’
It comes as one of Bangkok’s most famous street food restaurants, run by chef Supinya Junsuta or ‘Jay Fai’ announced over the weekend that it is to close temporarily after being informed that a customer who attended the eatery on the evening of April 1st has tested positive for Covid 19.
The renowned food destination which won a Michelin Star in 2018, the world’s top culinary award, made the announcement on Twitter.
‘We are taking all the necessary precautions, including a deep cleaning of the entire premises and its surrounding area, sanitising equipment and surfaces with disinfectant and all staff members are undergoing swab testing for Covid-19.’
Cluster in Bangkok centres on pubs and nighttime entertainment venues since March 16th last
The Director-general of the Department of Disease Control at the Ministry of Public Health has issued a clear warning about a cluster of infection that is developing in Bangkok centred on pubs and nighttime entertainment venues in the capital.
Dr Opas Karnkawinpong has indicated that experts believe that the original spreader may have been a Thammasat University student who frequented two pubs in the Rangsit area of Pathum Thani on March 16th last.
Thong Lor, Ekkamais and Chatuchak are key districts in Bangkok as officials ask people to track their movements and report for testing
On Friday, he announced 40 infections linked with 21 separate venues in the Bangkok area of the city.
These included 21 cases at Krystal in Thong Lor and eight cases at the Beer House in Ekkamai. Other venues included Bla Bla and the Dollar Bangkok in Thong Lor and The Cassette Music Bar and Pub Dirty in Ekkamai.
Three infections were also found at the Baan Phahol Café and Bar in Chatuchak.
This figure has now grown to 71 and is expected to rise further.
Concern over the nature of the pub trade
Officials are extremely concerned about this outbreak.
‘Most pub goers do not hang out at a single place. That is why the cluster could spread very quickly,’ warned Dr Opas over the weekend.
He said many pubs employed travelling musicians who often moved between pubs and venues on the same night.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is appealing to anyone in Bangkok who has been at any of the above venues since March 25th last to make contact with authorities.