Prayut speeds up vaccine campaign in far South

Prayut speeds up vaccine campaign in far South

A public health staff administers the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine for a woman at the Central Plaza shopping centre in Lat Phrao on Tuesday. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
A public health staff administers the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine for a woman at the Central Plaza shopping centre in Lat Phrao on Tuesday. (Photo: Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has set a target of reducing the Covid-19 infection rate in Songkhla and three nearby provinces by 10% a week, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said on Wednesday.

The news came after positive cases in the deep South began spiking.

On Wednesday, 1,922 people tested positive in those four provinces, including 666 cases in Songkhla, 501 in Narathiwat, 446 in Yala and 309 in Pattani.

Of 12 Covid-related deaths reported in the South, four were from Yala and two from Narathiwat.

The four provinces were among the top 10 with the highest daily infection rate, led by Bangkok with 1,208 new cases and followed by Songkhla.

"The prime minister is concerned about the situation. He wants to see the infection rate reduced by at least 10% a week. The situation should be under control within one or two months," said Mr Thanakorn.

Dr Kiatiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for public health, was assigned to handle the case. The Public Health Ministry has distributed 1 million pills of the antiviral drug Favipiravir, 20,000 rapid antigen test kits (ATK) and 100 oxygen concentrators in the area.

The government has also provided 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 25,000 doses of AstraZeneca, said Mr Thanakorn. 

"The ATKs must be distributed quickly to those at risk of getting Covid-19. They will screen out the infected and create a Covid-free setting for those who test negative. People should also strictly follow all Covid-19 measures. With the help of medical professionals, we believe the infection rate will soon decline," he said.

Songkhla has the highest infection rate in the South. The total number of positive cases was 33,883, resulting in 158 deaths. About 43% of the local population have received their first shot but only 29% have been double-vaccinated. Only 1.37% have had a third or booster shot. 

Comparable figures by province were: Narathiwat — 34%, 23.5% and 0.9%; Yala — 45%, 28% and 1%; Pattani — 37% got the first shot, 21% received the second shot and 1.3% the third shot.

Responding to criticism that the region is still suffering from vaccine shortages, Department of Disease Control (DDC) director-general Dr Opas Karnkawinpong said more jabs would be dispatched.

"The Centre of Covid-19 Situation Administration planned to allocate almost 1.5 million doses to the deep southern provinces, but we can allocate another 500,000 on top," he said.

The DDC will dispatch another 200,000 doses of Sinopharm for a total of 2.2 million vaccine doses in the four provinces, he said.

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