11 July 2024

A senior respiratory disease expert has cautioned the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) against prematurely easing lockdown restrictions, without strict enforcement of the remaining measures. “More COVID-19 infections will result,” said Associate Professor Dr. Nitipat Jiarakul, chief of the respiratory diseases and tuberculosis section of the Department of Tropical Medicines at the Faculty of Medicine of Mahidol University.

The CCSA is scheduled to meet today (Friday) to consider the Public Health Ministry’s good practice guidelines for the easing of lockdown restrictions, which could allow eateries to provide dine-in services, as proposed by operators of restaurants and eateries in COVID-19 “dark red” provinces.

Dr. Nitipat noted that COVID-19 infections in Thailand have not yet reached their peak and “now, the doves are calling for the easing of restrictions, claiming that the graph of new infections across the country has been declining for the past several days, even though the infection rate is still beyond the capacity of the healthcare system to handle.”

“Calm down please,” pleaded Dr. Nitipat in his Facebook post, as he cited the CCSA’s Order No.23, issued in late May this year, easing certain lockdown restrictions, despite protests from the “hawkish” faction.

Two months later, he said, infections spread like advancing cancer, forcing the CCSA to issue five additional lockdown orders, pointing out that the spread of the disease does not depend on how quickly or slowly lockdown restrictions are eased, but on how effectively the laws or restrictions are enforced.

He asked the people to choose whether they want to live patiently, with COVID-19, for a long time or to live with the virus, constantly apprehensive about the daily numbers of new cases, new severe cases, how many need ventilators and additional deaths.

Dr. Nitipat also took note of an aspect of COVID-19 which is barely mentioned and studied in Thailand, which is the number of recoveries who are unable to resume their normal life, physically and mentally, known as “long COVID”.

He cited the case of the Samut Sakhon governor Veerasak Vichitsangsri, who recovered from the disease after being hospitalised for over 80 days and who is still unable to work as hard as he used to.

He also cited the cases of other recovered patients who whose lungs have been damaged beyond repair by the virus.

Easing of lockdown restrictions, he said, must be done step by step, adding that there must be clear cut guidelines for the public and monitoring.