'No let-up' after Covid is downgraded: DDC

'No let-up' after Covid is downgraded: DDC

Dept vows to guard against mutations

People shop for medical supplies at a Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) outlet on Rama VI Road in Bangkok’s Ratchathewi district. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
People shop for medical supplies at a Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) outlet on Rama VI Road in Bangkok’s Ratchathewi district. (Photo: Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

Monitoring of coronavirus mutations will remain unchanged when the disease is downgraded to "communicable under surveillance" status from Oct 1, the Department of Disease Control (DDC) said on Tuesday.

Covid-19 was declared a dangerous communicable disease in late-February 2020 by the National Communicable Disease Committee (NCDC) to allow health officials to respond more quickly to the emerging threat.

In Thailand, diseases are currently grouped into three broad categories for disease control, namely general diseases, dangerous communicable diseases, and communicable diseases under surveillance, said Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the DDC.

From Oct 1, Covid-19 will be placed 57th on the ministry's list of communicable diseases under surveillance -- which also includes dengue fever -- that require an immediate report be made to the ministry whenever a new case is detected, he said.

"Elsewhere in the world, such as in the United States and Japan, Covid-19 is now being treated like any other general disease.

"In Thailand, even though the rate of mutation appears to have slowed, it will still be closely monitored to ensure that when any significant new mutations emerge, they will be detected early," said Dr Opas.

The ministry is also considering packaging Covid-19 shots alongside standard annual flu vaccinations, and further cutting the isolation period, while ongoing "assessment" will inform further decisions regarding the remaining restrictions.

"Although they are no longer mandatory, wearing a face mask and social distancing are still highly recommended,'' added the doctor.

A respiratory disease expert, meanwhile, reasoned that the ministry's move to brand Covid-19 as a communicable disease under surveillance, instead of declaring it an endemic disease as initially planned, is due to the infection rate remaining higher than expected.

"The ministry should have communicated with the public more clearly that the actual number of new Covid-19 cases is still more than 30,000 a day and wearing a face mask and avoiding unnecessary public gatherings remain crucial prevention measures," said Assoc Prof Dr Nitipat Jiarakul, head of the division of respiratory diseases and tuberculosis at Mahidol University's Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital.

"While the ministry insisted the hospital bed occupancy rate wasn't high, state hospitals were, in fact, still being told to keep increasing the number of beds for Covid-19 patients and they were struggling to cope with the heavy workload," he said.

"There is also a large number of people suffering long Covid as we saw 20 million domestic infections this year alone, which the ministry has rarely mentioned," he added.

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