End panic by educating
With the number of new Covid-19 infections increasing by almost 1,000 each day since the end of last week, the government is faced with the tough task of tackling the third wave of the virus which was linked to entertainment venues in Bangkok's Thong Lor area.
The total number of cases since the first wave was detected last year has now surpassed 32,000, and it is anticipated the number of new cases will exceed 1,000 per day after the Songkran holiday period.
Under such circumstances, an equally difficult (if not, more) difficult task that the government needs to tackle is controlling public panic, which, if allowed to go on, will make the fight against the coronavirus more complicated and costly.
Over the past few days, there have been reports of people scrambling to seek Covid-19 test at public and private hospitals alike. As a result, nearly all top private hospitals in the capital, as well as some provinces like Chiang Mai, have decided to suspend testing, citing the shortage of test kits. Some have said their beds were fully occupied, so they were unable to accept new patients. After a period of complacency, the state frantically set up field hospitals to stave off a shortage.
Such developments have, to a great extent, intensified feelings of trepidation.
More than a few people who tested positive have freaked out on social media, complaining they couldn't register at any hospital. There is even a clip of a young woman -- who looked tired, but not quite ill -- saying she was desperate after being rejected by several hospitals.
Such drama attests to the fact that many people still don't have an adequate knowledge of the disease -- most importantly, the fact that the disease is most dangerous to senior citizens, or those with underlying health issues such as heart diseases, high blood pressure and/or diabetes.
Instead of rushing to hospitals, those who have come into contact with Covid-19 patients are supposed to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution.
They are supposed to observe their own condition and take medicine, such as anti-pyretics for fever, as required. Covid-19 is known for being easily transmissible, but it has quite a low mortality rate.
While the country is in the middle of a third wave of infections, the number of deaths is still below 100. The recovery rate is also quite high -- out of the 32,625 confirmed cases reported as of Sunday, more than 28,200 have recovered.
If everyone with minor symptoms and asymptomatic patients seeks treatment at medical facilities, the healthcare system will collapse and those who are actually in need of a treatment won't get the help they need.
That said, it's not entirely the public's fault for panicking, as it may have stemmed from the lack of trust in the government's handling of the outbreak from the start.
Take the issue of the sluggish vaccination programme, which significantly adds to public concerns. Despite the government's assurances that inoculations will be carried out quickly, the country lags far behind other countries. The government is now trying to correct the problem by establishing a new panel to look into diversifying vaccine sources.
The government must strike a fine balance between promoting awareness and preventing public panic. It must tell the public firmly: stay alert, avoid crowded places, practise physical distancing, wear masks and observe good hygiene habits.
The simple fact is that prevention is better than cure.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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