CCSA spokesman keeps fighting same 'charge'

CCSA spokesman keeps fighting same 'charge'

Taweesilp parries questions about low testing, saying current approach is working

Army of public health volunteers has been a big factor in helping keep the spread of Covid-19 in check, says Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.
Army of public health volunteers has been a big factor in helping keep the spread of Covid-19 in check, says Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, the spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

The face of the government’s fight against Covid-19 continues to defend the success of Thailand in bringing down new case numbers and keeping fatalities low — even if it means answering the same questions day after day.

Are fewer cases the result of fewer tests? That’s what Taweesilp Visanuyothin hears almost every day when he steps before the cameras as the spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).

“This question is the regular ‘charge’,” he said with a smile when asked on Monday whether so-called active case finding would produce a more accurate picture of how many people have the new coronavirus.

Dr Taweesilp acknowledges that the question about testing has been a mainstay of the briefings since the CCSA was set up on March 12 under the direct supervision of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Whatever Thailand is doing, the numbers suggest the country of 68 million has got off lightly so far relative to many others, with just 2,854 reported Covid-19 cases and 50 deaths as of Friday.

Thailand has conducted about 150,000 tests on people showing symptoms that could be the virus. 

Dr Taweesilp admitted on Monday that the cost of conducting active case finding — in “four-digit figures” per person — was one reason why health officials chose to focus only on groups at risk of contracting the virus instead of launching a comprehensive operation.

In Bangkok, active case finding has been conducted in Bang Khen and Khlong Toey districts, according to the centre.

Thailand was the first country outside China where the virus was detected, on Jan 13. The patient was a Chinese tourist from Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic. That suggests there was a lot of time for the virus to spread. But the country ranked 57th in the global table of cases as of Friday, well behind Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.

On Friday during a Q&A session, Dr Taweesilp was asked to spell out the measures that he thought had successfully tamed the virus so far.

He praised the solid foundation of the health system in the country, the utilisation of big data analytics and cooperation from people in the fight to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

He also commended the army of health volunteers who have fought the virus on the ground in all communities across the country to keep the outbreak in check.

One health volunteer is responsibile for 10 households in his or her community.


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