11 July 2024
Thailand outbreak

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the Ministry of Interior and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) to arrange space for the setting up of a field hospital in Bangkok, in case COVID-19 infections increase beyond the capacity of the capital’s regular hospitals.

He assured, however, that the current situation in Bangkok is still under control, but warned the public not to lower their guard and to observe basic safety guidelines strictly, such as wearing face masks, observing social distancing and avoiding high risk venues.

While expressing concern over the pandemic situation, the prime minister said that he does not want to order all entertainment outlets nationwide to close, while noting that those which fail to follow the guidelines strictly will be shut down immediately.

Regarding the Songkran festival next week, when many people are expected to travel extensively and visit elderly people to receive blessings, the prime minister said that he would prefer to see people exercise more caution and avoid gathering together in large numbers, which will put them at risk of infection, adding that the water sprinkling ritual at Government House has been cancelled.

Meanwhile, Dr. Opas Karnkavinpong, director-general of the Disease Control Department, warned that new infections may increase to over 1,000 per day, if there are no effective restrictions or controls during Songkran.

The Thonglor cluster has already infected 291 people in Bangkok and several other provinces since March 22nd, but the numbers will jump and the disease may spread quickly across the country if there are no or lax restrictions over Songkran.

Dr. Yong Poovorawan, chief of the clinical virology centre at Chulalongkorn University, said that the virus, which is now spreading from the Thonglor cluster, is the UK strain, which can spread 1.7 times faster than previous strains.

From simulated forecasts, he said that infections this year could be ten times higher than last year’s and, if restrictive measures this year are ten times more lenient, there is a likelihood that the infections this year may spiral up to 100 times higher than last year.