11 July 2024

Thailand’s top virologist, Dr. Yong Poovorawan, says the current rate of COVID-19 infection is more serious than a year ago and suggests that the tradition of visiting the elderly, to receive their blessings, be replaced with virtual visits, to reduce the risk of infection.

Citing the triple-digit daily new infections this month, mostly related to entertainment venues in Bangkok, compared to the dual-digit increases during the same period last year, he blamed the worsening situation on lax restrictions and the fact that most of the infected are young people, who show mild or no symptoms at all, unknowingly spreading the disease.

“Assuming that the infections this year are ten times higher than they were last year, and the preventive measures are ten times less effective than they were last year, that means that the severity of the pandemic this year will be 100 times greater than it was last year,” said Dr. Yong.

Last year, he said, the Songkran festival was effectively cancelled, all related activities were banned, bars and pubs were closed and most people strictly observed social distancing and wore face masks, but all these measures have been eased this year.

With Songkran next week, when many people will travel to visit their relatives across the country, Dr. Yong admitted that he is very worried about the high risk of increased infections, especially among the elderly.

Avoiding unnecessary travel and making online visits instead are the best ways to reduce the rate of infection, according to Dr. Yong, adding that stimulating the economy through the promotion of travel conflicts with the containment of the disease, which will backfire on the economy.