Virus cases tipped to fall Ministry warns about risks of fresh outbreak

Virus cases tipped to fall  Ministry warns about risks of fresh outbreak

A chemist at a pharmacy in Pathum Thani explains the correct way to use an antigen test kit (ATK) to a customer on Tuesday. Authorities are urging those who have received free ATKs from the government to take the test, instead of reselling them or letting them go to waste. (Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

The Public Health Ministry expects the number of new Covid-19 cases to decline to about 5,000 per day before the end of next month while remaining concerned that daily infections may again rise at a later date.

The 5,000 cases per day estimate is simply a statistical projection, while the risk of the number of new infections increasing remains because of several factors, said Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for public health, on Tuesday.

Key factors feared to trigger a new surge in daily Covid-19 infections include infection clusters and the spread of new variants of the coronavirus, Dr Kiattiphum said.

The proportion of infected patients with severe symptoms who require intensive care is also projected to drop dramatically when the number of new cases comes down, he said.

This apparent improvement in the outbreak situation in Thailand is a result of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions imposed in areas regarded as outbreak dark-red zones, coupled with the outcome of the ongoing national vaccination campaign and mass Covid-19 testing, he said.

“The risk of a large cluster of new infections occurring is still out there, yet it is very low, while the possibility of a new variant of the virus spreading is still rated by experts as not high,” he said.

“We should be able to live with another Covid-19 outbreak if it occurs, and if it does it would be expected to subside enough by March next year when we could again be back to a more normal situation,” he said.

The Covid-19 outbreak pattern in Thailand is similar to that of some European countries such as Britain that has a similar-sized population, which explains why comparable Covid-19 control approaches have been adopted to contain the virus, he said.

From next month on, Thailand expects to achieve a level of Covid-19 vaccination very close to that of those European countries, he said.

The expected 5,000 cases per day infection rate is controllable while the number of Covid-19 patients developing severe illness or dying should then become very close to that from influenza, he said.

Thailand on Tuesday logged 9,489 new Covid-19 cases and 129 more fatalities, a significant drop from 10,288 new Covid-19 cases recorded on Monday when 101 more deaths were reported.

That was the first time in several weeks that the number of new infections fell below 10,000 per day, thanks to the improvement in the efficiency of the Covid-19 control measures and public cooperation, said government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as the director of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), has subsequently expressed his gratitude for the cooperation provided by all sides in the ongoing battle against the coronavirus, said Mr Thanakorn.

The cabinet on Tuesday endorsed a proposal to further ease Covid-19 restrictions in the dark red-zone provinces from Friday, which was approved on Monday by the CCSA, said deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul.

The 9pm-4am curfew currently imposed in these provinces is to be shortened to 10pm-4am also from Friday, she said.

The ten businesses and activities allowed to resume from Friday are pre-school child development centres, public libraries, museums, learning centres, nail salons, tattoo shops, spa and massage parlours, cinemas, live music in restaurants, and sports and fitness gyms.

The cabinet also approved a plan to procure a total of 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for next year and an additional purchase of 165,000 doses this year of the same vaccine specifically from Spain, said Mr Thanakorn.

The first 15 million doses of the vaccine to be imported for next year are expected to be shipped to Thailand in the first quarter, another 30 million doses in the second quarter and the other 15 million doses in the third quarter, he said.

As for this year’s purchase of the vaccine from Spain in particular, the cabinet had already on Sept 14 decided to allow the Department of Disease Control to purchase 449,500 doses from the European country, he said.

In total, Thailand will acquire 614,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Spain this year, he said.

The death toll stood at 16,404 during the third wave and 16,498 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The kingdom’s all-time 24-hour high of Covid-19 fatalities was 312 recorded on Aug 18. The highest number of cases was 23,418 on Aug 13.

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