Thailand on track to downgrade COVID-19 to an endemic
BANGKOK — Thailand is doing all it can to control Covid-19 with the goal of downgrading it to an endemic, Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said on Monday.
Earlier, Public Health permanent secretary Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit said the official designation of Covid-19 as a pandemic would end in June.
But Anutin clarified on Monday that the ministry has not set a date for declaring Covid-19 an endemic. Anutin said his ministry had simply set a goal and set the criteria to reach the goal.
He said the government would have to take into account the infection situation, the mortality rate and the readiness of medicines and hospital beds before declaring an end to the pandemic and redesignating it an endemic.
“Now I see that Thailand is ready because the rate of hospitalization has dropped and the use of ICU equipment for patients has also gone down,” Anutin said.
When reporters told him that some medical experts suspected the new infection numbers had gone down, many people did not undergo tests for the coronavirus. Anutin said the ministry would focus on the rate of severe symptoms and mortality rate rather than counting the number of new infections to decide on redesignating it an endemic.
“We’ll use the same criteria that’s being used by most countries now,” Anutin said.
“If you want to see zero infection rate first, the government must lock down the country. Will the people be able to tolerate it? Examples from countries that locked themselves down showed that their citizens could not live their normal lives and their economy was damaged.
“We have passed that point. We have enough experience and we can control the situation. We have everything on hand. We have vaccines and have several choices of medicines.”
Asked whether he thinks the new infections are now on the downtrend, Anutin said the government has done its best.
“I don’t want to say whether we are on the downtrend on new infections because I fear that people may become complacent. I would like people to continue to comply with the preventive measures and the spread will gradually die down,” Anutin said.
Anutin added that the Public Health Ministry will purchase more protein subunit vaccines to inoculate people who may suffer from side-effects from other types of Covid-19 vaccines.
Last week, the Indian government donated 200,000 doses of Covovax vaccine, which is a type of protein subunit vaccines, to Thailand. Protein subunit vaccines contain harmless and purified pieces (proteins) of the virus, which have been specifically selected for their ability to trigger immunity.
Anutin added that the government has also stopped the requirement of RT-PCR tests for foreign arrivals, which is a step in downgrading the pandemic.
Meanwhile, permanent secretary Kiattiphum said 15 provinces have offered to be available for a pilot project to test the endemic status. He said the Disease Control Department will set measures for the 15 provinces to comply before they could declare an end to the pandemic in those areas.
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