Lockdown in sight

Lockdown in sight

New daily cases tipped for 10,000

Workers prepare sleeping areas for Covid-19 sufferers at Wat Pak Bor in Suan Luang district, Bangkok, on Wednesday. The temple will open its meditation centre to accommodate people with mild symptoms before referring them to treatment facilities. The temple has up to 170 places for sufferers. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Workers prepare sleeping areas for Covid-19 sufferers at Wat Pak Bor in Suan Luang district, Bangkok, on Wednesday. The temple will open its meditation centre to accommodate people with mild symptoms before referring them to treatment facilities. The temple has up to 170 places for sufferers. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

A lockdown may be considered to curb the spread of Covid-19 if new cases continue to surge, National Security Council secretary-general Natthapol Nakpanich said.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) did not rule out the possibility of new cases soaring to 10,000 per day next week given the rapid rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Gen Natthapol Nakpanich, head of the CCSA's operation centre, said the CCSA would be willing to consider any proposal from the Ministry of Public Health for a lockdown to contain Covid-19 transmissions.

He said he had heard talk of a lockdown. There was no official proposal so far, but if proposed, the centre was ready to consider it.

"People should have a correct understanding of the term 'lockdown'. Measures, which included a curfew, taken by the government in April last year could be construed as a lockdown, but the restrictions imposed afterwards -- such as the shuttering of businesses and a ban on movement of people -- were not," he said.

Asked whether the matter would be raised at the CCSA's July 12 meeting, Gen Natthapol said it could come sooner if the number of infections and deaths went up.

"We may wait for 15 days to assess the situation," Gen Natthapol said. "We have to take all factors into consideration.

"In the meantime, we have to look into other matters, such as controls on the movement of people and solving the problem of bed shortages. We won't just sit and watch the figures."

Asked whether a lockdown would be imposed only in areas where the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus was rampant, or for the whole country, Gen Natthapol said emphasis would be placed on Bangkok and surrounding provinces, along with the four southern border provinces. Other parts of the country could be put under semi-lockdown.

He went on to say that a total lockdown would have serious impacts on people living hand-to-mouth and those with no permanent income.

"According to the Ministry of Finance, nearly 300 billion baht was spent on remedial measures during the April 2020 lockdown. If we do it again, we would have find a lot of money to compensate people for their hardships,'' he said.

Apisamai Srirangson, assistant spokeswoman for the CCSA, said the Medical Association of Thailand had expressed concern about the current rate of transmissions after the Delta variant was found in Thailand last month.

"Currently, we have seen the figures rise from 1,000 to 2,000 and 4,000. It is estimated the number may reach 10,000 per day next week [if it continues at this rate],'' she said.

The majority of infections in Bangkok were now of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus and it was spreading to provinces, Dr Apisamai said.

Since April, Covid-19 transmissions from Greater Bangkok areas had spread to 40 provinces, carried by people returning to their homes, she said.

She said the CCSA's subcommittee also discussed improving the capacity to move infected people with severe symptoms from their homes to hospitals and to increase the number of beds by setting up a field hospital at Suvarnabhumi airport.

The 5,000-bed field hospital is likely to open next month. Some 1,360 beds will be available for patients with severe symptoms and the rest for patients with less severe conditions.

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