Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul is calling on some 2.1 million elderly citizens who have yet to complete their Covid-19 vaccinations to do so before Songkran in April.
Mr Anutin said he has ordered the Department of Disease Control to liaise with the head of provincial public health offices to get these 2.1 million people adequately protected by April, as immunity takes some time to build up.
As such, he urged Thais to take their elderly relatives to get vaccinated about three weeks before the Songkran exodus begins in mid-April, when infections are expected to climb following the holiday period.
Those planning to return to their hometowns should refrain from taking part in risky activities to minimise the risk of transmitting the virus to their family members, he said.
When asked how the government plans to promote vaccination among the elderly, he said village health volunteers and religious leaders will be asked to engage senior citizens in their area.
He highlighted the increased risk of death from Covid-19 among the elderly, especially in the presence of an underlying health condition, to urge seniors to get vaccinated.
The dean of Siriraj Hospital's medical school under Mahidol University, Dr Prasit Watanapa, said despite the presence of four infection risk factors -- namely people, activities, places and timing -- during this year's Songkran festival, the overall situation is not expected to be as worrying as last year, due to Thailand's high vaccination rate and the fact that the Omicron strain causes less severe symptoms.
That said, given the recent surge of infections, those planning to return to their hometowns during Songkran should tighten their hygiene practices to keep their families safe, he said.
Dr Prasit said that according to fatality records in the first three weeks of March, 50% of the deceased had not been vaccinated at all, 30% had received their second jab over three months before their infection, while 10% had only had one shot.
This meant 90% of those who died in that period had insufficient protection against the disease, he said.
Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said the cabinet has greenlighted to budget 811.77 billion baht of hazard pay for 270,590 Covid-19 frontline workers, including local leaders, community doctors and officers from Volunteer Defence Corps for their work from October last year to this March. Each will receive a payment of 500 baht a month.