Department of Health poll: Fresh outbreak feared over New Year

Department of Health poll: Fresh outbreak feared over New Year

Most respondents in a poll conducted by the Department of Health have expressed concern about another possible outbreak of Covid-19, especially the Omicron variant, if New Year celebrations continue as planned.

Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai, chief of the Department of Health, said there will be a huge movement of people over the long weekend which could ramp up the number of daily infections despite the country having already administered over 100 million vaccine doses.

As such, the public should refrain from lowering their guard and follow the Ministry of Public Health's universal prevention to keep Covid at bay, he noted.

"The ministry's concern about mass gatherings during the New Year festival is no different from the latest poll we conducted. It showed that people are afraid of possible outbreaks of the new Omicron variant," he said.

The department polled 3,029 people from Dec 1-20. The results showed that 82% of respondents were worried about fresh outbreaks during the festive celebrations.

Three-quarters cited the large festive gatherings and related travel, 70% expressed concern about the new Omicron variant specifically, and 47% feared a rising number of daily infections.

Of those who expressed little concern about Covid, just over half said the country must learn to live with the disease, 45% said they were confident in the preventive measures put in place by business operators, and 39% said that had already got used to living with the pandemic.

The survey, which allowed for multiple answers, also found that pubs, bars and karaoke parlours were considered as being the riskiest places for Covid-19 outbreaks, with 65% of respondents citing these venues, followed by tourist sites (60%), markets (48%), department stores (45%), public transport (44%), restaurants (42%), convenience stores (22%), hotels (21%) and religious sites (18%).

Some 84% of respondents planned to have New Year parties at home, followed by 17% who will opt to see out the year in a restaurant and 16% at other events.

In a related development, a group of tourism businesses sent a petition to the Health Ministry on Tuesday demanding the government avoid issuing more lockdown orders. They urged it to keep the Test & Go measure in place and downgrade the status of Covid-19 from a pandemic to endemic.

Arizara Yuenyao, who led the group, said business operators are panicking about the government's possible plan to put extreme measures in place to prevent Omicron outbreaks, adding the Test & Go cancellation has already proven to be effective.

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