Songkran screening eyed

Songkran screening eyed

CCSA mulls steps for provincial travel

People queue to seek registration for a Covid-19 test opened by the Bang Khae district office. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
People queue to seek registration for a Covid-19 test opened by the Bang Khae district office. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Inter-provincial travel is expected to be allowed during next month's Songkran festival as the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) meets today to discuss the easing of Covid-19 curbs.

Speaking after a meeting of the CCSA's subcommittee on Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said moves to ease various measures would be based on zoning under a colour-coded system used to identify which areas were most vulnerable to Covid-19 outbreaks.

Red, orange, yellow and green are used to illustrate the degree of Covid-19 infections in provinces affected by the disease, he said.

Currently, there were no longer red zones which required maximum control, and Bangkok and Samut Sakhon have now been declared as orange zones, Mr Anutin said, adding that public health safety would be prioritised in each zone.

Asked about the huge amount of inter-provincial travel expected during Songkran, Mr Anutin said provincial communicable disease committees led by provincial governors would lay down health protocols to screen people moving in and out.

Asked if water splashing would be allowed in provinces in green zones, Mr Anutin said the CCSA would make a decision at today's meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Although there were no red zones and inter-provincial travel was not banned currently, the government still had to take health safety into account, Mr Anutin said.

"We are now on the last lap. Covid-19 vaccines have already arrived and everyone will get the vaccine. Next year, we will be able to have fun again. Therefore, we need to cooperate like we did last year," the minister said.

"Last year, Thailand went six to seven months without new cases of Covid-19. But when Thailand had performed well in disease control and news of vaccines emerged, a new surge of infections struck. However, the public health system is still efficient enough to bring new transmissions under control," Mr Anutin said.

He also said the CCSA's meeting would make a decision on whether to allow foreign travellers back into Thailand.

The required 14-day quarantine period has now been reduced to 10 days and if the visitors have received vaccines, they would be quarantined for seven days.

If those who received two doses of vaccines and tests showed they developed substantial immunity to Covid-19, the CCSA would consider whether to cut the seven-day quarantine period to five or three days, or they might be even exempted from quarantine, Mr Anutin said.

However, this would depend on information gathered by medical experts, he said. "We are trying to do all we can to get things back to normal as quickly as possible," he said. As for a plan to open "travel bubbles" with selected countries, a move crucial to restoring international links to boost the economy, Mr Anutin said the government had not yet negotiated with those countries.

However, in principle, Thailand would pair with countries that have shown they have contained the spread of the coronavirus, Mr Anutin said. He also said Gen Prayut had instructed the Department of Disease Control (DDC) to ensure fast and safe vaccination for the public.

"I can confirm there will be enough vaccines for all. Vaccines won't be in short supply any longer. Vaccines from Sinovac have already arrived and in the next few months AstraZeneca vaccines produced in Thailand will be available at 10 million doses a month. The DDC will try to achieve the broadest possible distribution of vaccine," the minister said.

Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for public health, said the Public Health Ministry would present a vaccine distribution plan for consideration at the meeting today.

Meanwhile, the board of the Expressway Authority of Thailand (Exat) on Thursday approved the waiving of toll fees on two expressways during Songkran from April 9-16, Sorapong Paitoonphong, deputy permanent secretary for the Ministry of Transport, said.

The two expressways are the Burapha Withi Expressway (Bang Na-Chon Buri), and the Kanchanaphisek Expressway (Bang Phli-Suk Sawat).

Travel will be free from midnight on April 9 to midnight on April 16, said Mr Sorapong who is chairman of Exat's board. He said that about two million vehicles were expected to use the expressways during the eight-day period of free travel.

The waiving of the fees is expected to cost Exat about 116 million baht in lost revenue, he said.

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