Thai Public Health Ministry braces for more COVID-19 patients

Public Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Kiattibhoom Vongrachit has issued an urgent order instructing state hospital directors and provincial health chiefs across the country to prepare their medical personnel and facilities, including home isolation and community isolation facilities, to deal with an anticipated jump in serious COVID-19 cases.

In his capacity as head of the COVID-19 emergency operations centre, Dr. Kiattibhoom explained the need to make preparations in response to the rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 infections, particularly the Omicron variant, to ensure that the infected, especially the seriously ill, have access to medical treatment.

The state hospital directors and provincial health chiefs were also instructed to increase their telephone hotline capacities and to inform the public in their provinces of the existence of such services.

The Ministry of Public Health also urged members of the public, especially those who are over 60 or who are affected by any of seven underlying diseases, to receive vaccine booster shots.

The ministry has already upgraded the risk of COVID-19 infection to Level 4, one level short of the highest.

In his Facebook post today, Dr. Manoon Leechawengwongs, an expert on respiratory diseases at Vichaiyut Hospital, suggested that the Ministry of Public Health switches its focus from the attempt to cut number of people being infected with COVID-19 to reducing the number of those getting seriously ill or dying from the virus.

Since the BA.1 and BA.2 sub variants are known for their easy and rapid transmissibility, he said that the best that health officials can do is temporarily delay the infections, adding that they should seize the opportunity to speed up vaccination, especially booster doses, which can help reduce the severity of the disease and save lives.

Pointing out that there are still many who are reluctant to get inoculated, he suggested that health officials try harder to convince them to receive the vaccine, adding that 90% of the elderly, those afflicted with any of seven underlying diseases and pregnant women, should have received at least two doses of vaccine, while at least 60% of the high-risk groups should have received one booster shot.

The high-risk groups, who have not been vaccinated or not fully vaccinated, should be administered with Paxlovid, not Favipiravir, within 5 days of infection, which can reduce severe symptoms and the risk of death by 90%, said Dr. Manoon. Paxlovid is, however, not yet available in Thailand. Its delivery is expected in a couple of months.


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