Posted at: 15, Mar 2020
Phuket, Thailand, Phuket, Thailand
The Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak is still only at the second stage in Thailand, permanent secretary for public health Sukhum Kanchanapimai said yesterday, meaning the spread is still limited and mostly confined to overseas returnees, foreigners from affected countries and those in close contact with either group. But an association of doctors is warning that the nation might not be equipped for a rise to Stage 3, the highest level, a full-blown epidemic, and is slamming the government’s “slow response” to the spread of the disease.
In an emotionally charged warning on its Facebook page, the Thoracic Society of Thailand said that this week’s rise in the number of cases, particularly those attributed to local transmission, indicates that the country is beginning to enter Stage 3.
The society says it has tried to alert agencies involved of the need for preparations.
“And though there is a degree of response, this is still not enough to deal with this major health crisis.”
In Stage 3, all hospitals, whether public or private must identify all patients with Covid-19 infections and isolate them to cut the rate of transmission.
The society also criticised government agencies responsible for combating the virus:
“The virus outbreak has shown that state mechanisms designed to respond to national crises are always one step behind.
“But this does not dampen the spirit of medical professionals who will not surrender to these tiny enemies. We will not bow to those in high places who lack expertise and do not understand how we work. Now is the time for us to prepare for war even if there are no efficient weapons or decisive commanders.”
Tares Krassanairawiwong, director-general of the Health Service Support Department, says that the department issued an order, effective from March 5, prohibiting private hospitals from turning away emergency cases of Covid-19 infection. If it’s necessary to refer patients elsewhere, they must ensure transport is arranged properly and must not let patients travel to seek treatment themselves.
Sukhum also stressed the need for China to get back to its normal production of medical supplies, especially masks and other necessary items to fight against the epidemic. He said the Thai government has already asked China for 180 million surgical masks, one million N95 medical masks and a million protective medical uniforms.
He also said that all hospitals under the ministry’s control will receive N95 medical masks and other necessary protective uniforms today, and that the government will provide full support to all medical staff fighting against the disease, including extra pay.
The emergency operation centre under the Disease Control Department has compiled a report which suggests that Thailand remains unlikely to enter Stage 3, as the existing measures can still theoretically control the spread of the virus.
However, the Isara News agency quoted the report as urging that social distancing, especially a ban on mass gatherings, should be implemented in eight high-risk provinces, including Bangkok, this month.
If proactive measures are not urgently put in place, the report warns, infections may reach a point where they can no longer be controlled and the number of patients could reach 2,250 by May.