Health minister attempts to allay fears over planned COVID-19 dangerous infectious disease designation
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul has asked members of the public to stay calm over the ministry’s proposal to designate COVID-19 as Thailand’s 14th dangerous infectious disease.
In his Facebook post today, the minister said that the proposal, which he and the Infectious Disease Control Committee is yet to endorse, is intended to support medical personnel performance in containing the spread of coronavirus and to provide legal cover for official actions.
He said that members of the Infectious Disease Control Committee are senior doctors, who have experience in coping with infectious diseases, adding that people can still pursue a normal life.
The minister explained that the designation of COVID-19 as a dangerous infectious disease would empower authorities to impose necessary measures, such as a lockdown of a town or a community to screen the people there.
He disclosed that Thailand has already designated 13 dangerous infectious diseases, such as SARS and MERS, and has been successful in containing their spread.
Dr. Yong Phusuwan, chief virologist at the Medical Science Faculty of Chulalongkorn University, recommended maximum measures be used to prevent what he described as the “super spread” of COVID-19.
He cited the example of the super spread of SARS in Singapore, which started with just one patient, and the super spread of MERS in South Korea, which originated in one infected patient at an emergency ward, resulting in an outbreak which left many people dead.
Dr. Yong also noted the spread of COVID-19 among passengers on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, where the virus spread from one infected passenger from Hong Kong to between 500-600 other passengers, despite the precautionary measures imposed on board.
Isolating those who are sick, even though infection is yet to be confirmed, is also a necessary step to prevent the spread of the disease, said Dr. Yong.