11 July 2024

Disease Control Department Director-General, Dr. Opart Karnkawinpong, has attempted to clear up any misunderstanding about Thailand’s plan to categorise COVID-19 as an endemic disease.

Pointing out that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected most countries for more than two years, which is unprecedented for an infectious disease, he said the big question being asked by health officials concerns how long the disease will continue to spread in the post-pandemic period.

Citing epidemiological theory, Dr. Opart said it is likely that COVID-19 will become a general or endemic disease, like flu, and the most important consideration is how well people in each area of the planet will be able to cope or co-exist with the disease.

He said that Thailand’s National Communicable Disease Committee concurs with the global notion that COVID-19 will, in the future, become a localised disease. How long this will take, however, will depend on the conditions in each country. 

The virulence of mutated variants, the number of people vaccinated, the ability of healthcare systems cope with the infections and the new normal lifestyle in each country are all contributory factors.

He stressed that, for a disease to become endemic, it does not mean that the disease will disappear, but that it can behave like flu, which has characteristics close to those of COVID-19 or dengue fever, which is a seasonal disease.

He allayed concerns that, if COVID-19 does become endemic, those infected with it may not receive free treatment from the state, adding that every Thai citizen is entitled to free treatment under the universal healthcare scheme.