Second wave a worry, warn advisers
Easing of lockdown risks uptick in cases
The nation must be ready to cope with a possible resurgence in Covid-19 cases if lockdown measures are eased, as expected, starting on May 17, the government's pandemic advisory committee warned on Friday.
"The government, business and ordinary citizens must be prepared for an uptick in cases that might come after the relaxation of the lockdown, particularly the risk that it might overwhelm the healthcare system," Dr Charas Suwanwela, chairman of the special committee, told the media.
Comprising nine respected academics, with Dr Charas as its chairperson, the committee was formed by the prime minister on April 30 to give him unbiased advice on the best way to navigate the global crisis.
The special committee was also tasked with seeking other expert opinions from ministries and private and civic groups.
Dr Charas, a former dean and professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Chulalongkorn University, said that Thailand has fared relatively well in dealing with Covid-19, with the death rate standing at 1.8% against much higher figures in Europe.
Despite this, he warned that the committee is concerned by reports of a second wave of infections in countries which have eased some of their restrictions.
The committee, he said, believed the private sector will need to play a significant role in helping the government and making sure the burden on the healthcare system remains manageable by taking steps to minimise the risk of further transmission.
While recommending that the governors of provinces that have, so far, recorded zero cases, should be allowed to prescribe their own measures, Dr Charas maintained that the government's countrywide oversight will remain crucial in the coming weeks and months.
There are currently 43 provinces across the country that have not recorded a coronavirus case for 28 days or more.
The committee had also estimated it could take even longer to -- up to a year and a half -- to recover from the "drastic" economic and social impacts of the pandemic, he said.
As a result, the government will need to implement intensive measures to rehabilitate key sectors and prompt growth.
Dr Charas said that the committee is currently working on a set of proposals that the government might wish to consider as part of a plan to boost the economy.
The recommendations will take up to three months to draft and will be tabled to the premier when ready.