Health authorities confident that Thailand can be considered a low-risk country.
Thailand is fighting two fronts in the war against Covid-19 and has been doing a great job in slowing down the epidemic, Dr Thanarak Palitpat, deputy chief of the Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Disease Control (DDC), said during the daily briefing on Saturday (February 22).
The number of confirmed cases in Thailand was unchanged at 35, of whom 20 had fully recovered and have been discharged. Out of the 15 who remained under treatment in isolation rooms at medical facilities, two cases were critically ill and were still stable.
The 20th patient who had fully recovered, cleared of the virus, and was released on Saturday was a 24-year-old Thai man – who was among the 138 Thai evacuees from Wuhan kept under observation in Chon Buri until their release earlier this week, according to Ministry of Public Health spokesman Dr Thaweesin Witsanuyothin.
“Yesterday we had 101 more patients under investigation (PUI), bringing the total number of PUI to 1,252 – of whom 60 were from airport screening. The increase in PUI is due to the expansion of the affected countries we put under surveillance for incoming travellers and the extension of case definition to include patients with a typical pneumonia in eight provinces – Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi, Phuket, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Bangkok, Samut Prakan and Chon Buri,” Thanarak said.
Of the 1,252 PUI cases, the majority of whom were diagnosed with the flu, 1,006 had recovered and been released whilst 246 were still being treated.
Globally as of 7am on Saturday, there were 77,286 infections and 2,252 fatalities, with 75,903 infections and 2,237 deaths in all regions of China, the ministry reported.
With Saturday marking the 50th day since Thailand had launched its response to the mysterious pneumonia, Thaweesin noted how the early response to the emerging disease from Wuhan by putting in place screening for all passengers on flights from Wuhan since January 3 and the identification of the first virus infection outside China in Thailand being announced to the press on January 13, had led to the country’s success in slowing down the rate of infection. The hard work put in by all the officials involved had also greatly contributed to stopping the spread.
Thaweesin reminded participants that the Thai government had raised the Emergency Operations Centre – launched at the DDC head office on January 4 – to the national level on January 27. The National Committee for Emerging Infectious Diseases chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha earlier this week approved a plan for multi-agency integration and cooperation to minimize the impacts in this second stage of the disease where residents could become infected due to close contact with visitors from virus-hit locales.
The plan also made preparations for the scenario that the virus might enter the third stage, meaning a wider spread with residents who have not travelled to China and have not had direct contact with anyone from China or other virus-hit locales, becoming infected.
DDC deputy chief Thanarak said: “Thailand is now concerned about the situation of Covid-19 aboard especially in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Italy. As there are many more countries affected by Covid-19, the country’s risk of imported cases from aboard is getting higher. We are fighting two wars now: the first is to do health surveillance among international travellers from the affected countries and the second is to try and identify local transmission cases in the country as soon as we can. So far, I think we’ve done a great job in slowing this epidemic.
“We are working very hard to slow down the spread of disease in the country so that our health system has time to prepare itself for the situation that may come. I would like to confirm we are still working flat out to control the spread of disease within Thailand the best we can and the numbers we release everyday accurately reflect the situation in Thailand. We still have limited local transmission so travellers face a low risk. It is impossible to achieve zero risk but, as I said, the risk is low and we hope visitors will feel confident about travelling to Thailand. If they do, we ask them to stay safe and try to protect themselves,” Thanarak said.
He also urged people not to believe and pass on fake news and recommended all to adopt the universal precautions especially frequent hand washing and wearing face masks when in crowded places.