Thailand 'ready for worst' Covid-19 scenario

Thailand 'ready for worst' Covid-19 scenario

Contingency measures prepared 'just in case'

Workers check masks at a factory in Nonthaburi’s Pak Kret district. Ensuring an adequate supply is among the precautionary steps the government is taking to combat any worst-case scenario of Covid-19. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Workers check masks at a factory in Nonthaburi’s Pak Kret district. Ensuring an adequate supply is among the precautionary steps the government is taking to combat any worst-case scenario of Covid-19. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The government is making preparations "just in case" the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) epidemic enters the third, worst-case stage in Thailand, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Thursday.

He was speaking after discussions with senior officials at Government House.

"People should not panic. The government is preparing measures just in case. If they are not necessary, they will not be implemented. Today, the situation in Thailand is under control... Past measures have been efficient and the disease can be controlled satisfactorily," Gen Prayut said.

Among the worst-case scenarios, the government was working on ensuring an adequate supply of face masks and help for the tourism sector, the prime minister said.

Afterwards, Gen Prayut's Twitter account carried a post saying Thailand had never concealed the number of infection cases, and people could rest assured that Thailand had good, efficient and internationally recognised measures in place to prevent and control the disease.

Dr Sukum Karnchanapimai, the permanent health secretary, said the prime minister told the ministry to prepare hospitals, medical equipment and supplies of masks to cope with any escalation of the epidemic. 

"I stress that the present situation in Thailand is in the second stage and is being satisfactorily handled. Patients who are being treated are recovering and the number of infected people is low compared with figures in other countries. Thailand ranks 7th, and other countries are doing worse," he said.

The first-stage is transmission from animals to humans, the second-stage is local transmission and the third-stage refers to vast and uncontrollable infections. 

Dr Sopon Iamsirithaworn, director of the Bureau of General Communicable Diseases, said the government would list Covid-19 as a new and dangerous communicable disease so that officials would have the legal tools to improve their response to the epidemic.

"If in the next two months there are more patients, we will have the legal means to facilitate our work. Disease control officials will have authority. Those not following instructions will be punished," he said.

Bunyarit Kallayanamit, the permanent commerce secretary, said exports of surgical masks and hand washing gel were limited and nine local factories producing surgical masks were operating at full capacity around the clock to produce 35 million masks a month.

The ministry also required manufacturers to supply their masks to its distribution network, to guarantee availability, he said.

Silapasuay Raweesaengsoon, permanent secretary of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, said the BMA was prepared for a worst-case scenario and had already designated locations to set up field hospitals.

Its vocational training centres were producing 1,000 reusable cloth masks a day, she said.

The Public Health Ministry reported on Thursday that the number of local Covid-19 patients  remained unchanged at 35 since early last month. Seventeen of them had already been discharged. The 18 others were in hospitals.

Of the present patients, two required close supervision at Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute. One was dependent on a lung support machine, but was able to follow orders and had already tested negative for the virus. The other also suffered from tuberculosis and was in a stable condition. Both received the antiviral drug favipiravir for five days.

As of Wednesday 1,052 patients were being monitored. Of them, 861 had been discharged. Most of them had seasonal colds. The other 191 patients remained at hospitals.

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