PM warns health services to brace for Songkran surge

PM warns health services to brace for Songkran surge

A police officer holds water guns after seizing them from the boys on Khao San road as they were prohibited to play with water during the Songkran holiday on Thursday. (Reuters photo)
A police officer holds water guns after seizing them from the boys on Khao San road as they were prohibited to play with water during the Songkran holiday on Thursday. (Reuters photo)

Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the Ministry of Public Health and other state agencies to prepare for a surge in Covid-19 infections when people return to work after the long holiday on Monday.

The PM has assigned these health bodies to ensure prompt responses to any new clusters of Covid-19 infections, said government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana on Saturday.

The National Health Security Office (NHSO) has added capacity to its hotline to serve an expected rise in demand for help with Covid-19 care and advice after the Songkran festival, he said.

The NHSO is also recommending that people should observe their health for a week to 10 days for signs of infection, which may include a high fever, cough or runny nose, he said.

A rapid antigen test is recommended for anyone who exhibits any of these symptoms, and doctors need to be informed of the patient's travel history over the holiday, said Mr Thanakorn.

Gen Prayut said he is confident the country has sufficient medical supplies and healthcare resources to cope with the current virus transmission situation, added deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul.

The PM, however, has emphasised the need for the Ministry of Public Health to scale up informing the public about "long Covid", which is now more common following the rise in number of cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variants, said Ms Traisuree.

"Long Covid is real. Don't be fooled by the illusion that Covid-19 is more or less like a common flu, takes a little time to recover from and will soon become an endemic disease," said Dr Thira Woratanarat, an associate professor at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine.

Anan Jongkaewwattana, director of the Veterinary Health Innovation and Management Research Group at the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, meanwhile, raised concerns over coronavirus mutation risks after Songkran when "international tourists" were seen splashing water unmasked. "A rising number of new infections may still be manageable. But please, no more diversity in the virus's variants," he said.

The number of Covid-19 deaths recorded on Saturday hit a new high at 125, with 18,892 new cases logged, said the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. About 1.78 million people have been infected since Jan 1, it said.

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