Govt hopes to declare Covid-19 endemic by July 1

Govt hopes to declare Covid-19 endemic by July 1

A health professional vaccinates an elderly woman against Covid-19 in Nonthaburi province early this month. Health authorities hope to speed up inoculations of elderly people, an important factor in redefining Covid-19 as an endemic disease by July 1 as the National Communicable Disease Committee plans. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
A health professional vaccinates an elderly woman against Covid-19 in Nonthaburi province early this month. Health authorities hope to speed up inoculations of elderly people, an important factor in redefining Covid-19 as an endemic disease by July 1 as the National Communicable Disease Committee plans. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The National Communicable Disease Committee expects the number of new coronavirus cases and fatalities to fall over the next few months, with Covid-19 becoming an endemic disease by July 1.

After chairing the committee's meeting at the Public Health Ministry in Nonthaburi province on Wednesday, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said the committee came up with the plan to declare the disease endemic, as in European countries, to facilitate tourism and economic recovery.

To be able to classify Covid-19 as endemic within the next four months, the country would have to contain new infections and fatalities, and deploy sufficient resources for treatment, including medications.

At the same time, the general public would have to take serious precautions to prevent infections, including receiving vaccinations and booster shots, Mr Anutin said.

The government would not ban inter-provincial trips during the Songkran (traditional Thai New Year) festival in the middle of next month, but people must take serious measures to protect themselves and avoid crowded places during the period, he said.

Elaborating on steps to achieve the endemic status for Covid-19 by July 1, Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for public health, said that from this Saturday (March 12) to early next month the country would try to cap the number of daily new cases at or below current levels.

From late next month to May, daily caseloads would start a gradual decline. From late May to the end of June, new daily cases would drop to 1,000-2,000, he said.

"From July 1, it will be the post-pandemic stage, meaning the transition from the pandemic to an endemic disease," Dr Kiattiphum said.

Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said that to achieve the endemic status, the Covid-19 fatality rate must not exceed one in 1,000 cases or 0.1%. At present the rate is at 0.19%-0.2%.

The rate is currently above that threshold because most fatalities were elderly people with underlying illnesses and pregnant women. The fatality rate must be cut by half from the present one, he said.

Dr Opas also said the current fatality rate could drop by 20-30% right away with data revision, because many of the deaths attributed to Covid-19 actually resulted from other causes such as kidney disease and terminal cancer, but the patients tested positive for Covid-19 after they died.

Vaccinations should be accelerated for vulnerable groups, he said.

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