Thai health minister catches COVID-19 after overseas trip despite 6 vaccine shots
Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul tested positive for COVID-19, using a rapid antigen test, upon his return from abroad on Sunday, even though he has already received six doses of vaccine, with the last one being administered on June 13th.
Public Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Kiattibhoom Vongrachit said today (Tuesday) that Anutin has developed muscle pains and a throat irritation and has been advised to self-isolate for a week.
He said that the minister might have contracted the virus on his overseas trip, having met and talked with many people attending the meetings.
Thanks to booster doses before his departure, Dr. Kiattibhoom said that the public health minister has not fallen severely ill and is only suffering mild symptoms which do not require hospitalisation.
He advised the officials with him on the trip to wear face masks at all times, avoid visiting crowded places and monitor their health. He also advised them to take a rapid antigen test if they start to develop symptoms and to follow a doctor’s advice.
Dr. Kiattibhoom maintained that the minister’s infection will have no impact on the government’s policy to open the country to more overseas arrivals.
He also recommended that the public wear face masks when they are in crowded venues and get booster doses which, he said, will reduce the risks of severe symptoms or death, even though they may not fully protect against infection.
The mask mandate was lifted last week and wearing masks is now on a voluntary basis. People deemed to be at high risk are still urged to wear them. The practice is also recommended for crowded places with poor ventilation.
Anutin led a delegation to the Bureau International des Expositions’ 170th General Assembly in Paris, between June 19th and 21st, and then to Geneva to attend the UNAIDS executive committee meeting from June 21st to 24th.
Anutin is not the only cabinet member infected with COVID-19. Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit has also caught the virus after returning from the United Kingdom. The Deputy Public Health Minister Sathit Pitutecha revealed, however, that his condition is not severe and that he will be working from home for the next 7 days.
Regarding Thailand’s overall COVID-19 situation, Sathit said that, even though the official figures show an average of 2,000 new cases each day, it is estimated that actual new infections are 10 times higher. Fatalities, however, are not higher, he said, adding that the death rate in Thailand is still lower than the global average.