Controls 'should be reinstated'

Controls 'should be reinstated'

The government must heighten its Covid-19 control measures and issue a regulation mandating the use of face masks in poorly ventilated, closed spaces, Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of Mahidol University's Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, said yesterday.

"We are facing a turning point and I'd like policy makers to send a clear signal that the number of new infections is escalating. I also suggest the government raise its Covid-19 prevention measures," he said.

He was responding to the reported spike in the number of new Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals for treatment with severe symptoms, including at Siriraj Hospital.

He confirmed the number of Covid-19 patients there was rising, particularly people with chronic diseases admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit as their symptoms were being exacerbated due to the virus.

"This is a measure that requires immediate implementation. Don't wait until hospitals run out of beds for new Covid-19 patients again," Dr Prasit warned.

As Thailand has now fully reopened, foreign visitors and returning Thais have unknowingly brought with them the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of Omicron, which has heightened the risk of transmission and makes them likely to emerge as the new dominant variants here, he said.

Even though these new strains may not be as virulent as Delta, they can serve as bridges to more mutations, Dr Prasit said, adding the best course of action would be to get more people vaccinated or administer boosters while raising disease control measures.

More public campaigning is required to encourage those who are waiting for a second generation of Covid-19 vaccines to get booster shots of existing vaccines as soon as possible, he said.

Those in at-risk groups, including the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions, are especially urged to get boosters, he said.

Some infected patients have passed away despite having received their third and fourth shots, he said, adding this points to the need to maintain sufficient Covid-19 prevention measures including wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing and frequent hand washing.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha tried to allay fears of another outbreak, saying the situation is under control and the Ministry of Public Health is well prepared for all eventualities.

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