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Panic, precautions and contradictions over Thailand’s first coronavirus death

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Panic, precautions and contradictions over Thailand’s first coronavirus death | Thaiger
PHOTOS: Kunlaphun Siripimamporn/The Nation

Mild panic, and a new raft of precautions pervades the Coronavirus narrative in Thailand as we head into another week. Over the weekend the Health Ministry announced a new range of precautionary measures whilst most of Thailand’s tourist spots remain quiet – a lot quieter than usual. There was also the announcement of the first coronavirus-related death in Thailand over the weekend.

The Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok, usually teeming with tourists on the weekends, was mostly deserted yesterday morning as visitors from, principally, China, who come to worship at the Erawan Shrine, stayed away.

Further north, the numbers at Chiang Mai’s international airport are expected to fall 40% to just 3.5 million in the first six months of 2020 if the outbreak of Covid-19 drags on until the middle of the year.

Chiang Mai airport deputy director Thananrat Prasertsri says that flights to the airport during the period January 1 – February 25 dropped 24% year on year, and passenger numbers fell 40% year on year to 22,000 daily. In the last two years, the airport has catered to 11 million passengers, despite being built for to serve a maximum of 8 million per year.

Meanwhile, Thailand yesterday confirmed its first death from complications related to the COVID-19 coronavirus. The director-general of the Department of Disease Control, made the announcement in Bangkok yesterday. The victim was described as a 35 year old who also had complications from dengue fever at the time of his death.

The patient, reportedly a sales consultant who worked directly with Chinese tourists, had been in hospital for around a month and originally tested positive for the coronavirus in early February. The man died of multi-organ failure although doctors had “detected no coronavirus in his body since February 16”.

The man has now been identified as a sales consultant working at a duty-free shop run by King Power at its Srivaree branch in Samut Prakan.

The man had been first treated for dengue fever at a private hospital in late January before being transferred to the Bamrasnaradura Infectious Diseases Institute in Nonthaburi province because he had also contracted the Covid-19 virus.

The man died on Saturday evening.

But according to Bangkok Post, his explanation from the Department of Disease Control contradicts information from by Thiravat Hemachudha, the head of King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital’s Centre for Emerging Diseases. Posting on his Facebook page yesterday morning, Dr Thiravat said… “His two lungs were affected by pneumonia, which shows he caught Covid-19 from the beginning, not dengue fever.”

“I think the Public Health Ministry probably made some inaccurate assessment of the patient’s conditions and diseases.”

For its part, the Health Ministry says it will make further announcements about the case as soon as results are available from an autopsy.

At the same time the health ministry has now designated Coronavirus Covid-19 as a “dangerous communicable disease”, a designation which took effect yesterday. The announcement gives authorities sweeping powers to contain the spread of the virus in Thailand. The national committee on communicable diseases says they’ve agreed to list Covid-19 as a “dangerous communicable disease” in order to give health authorities opportunities to respond more quickly to any outbreaks or containments.

Panic, precautions and contradictions over Thailand's first coronavirus death | News by Thaiger

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

UPDATE: Field hospitals being established in Covid hot zones around Thailand

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UPDATE: Field hospitals being established in Covid hot zones around Thailand | Thaiger

UPDATE: The field hospital in Bangkok’s Bang Bon district, west of the Chao Phraya river, had its first 10 Covid patients today. The director of the medical services office of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration says that the 10 patients into the makeshift hospital, located at the Chalerm Phra Kiat Stadium, will enable assessment of the performance by the medical team, before more patients arrive – Thai PBS World

ORIGINAL STORY: Despite the confident posture and Songkran going ahead, amid restrictions, there is a lot of background activity which suggest the authorities are getting ready for a surge of new infections at the end of the Songkran break, officially this Thursday (but in reality, next Sunday at the end of the weekend when most people who travelled home will return for a resumption of work).

The Thai lunar new year celebrations – Songkran – are the largest mass movement of Thais each year, a source for a huge leap in road deaths and accidents. And, this year, a potential super-spreader event.

Quietly, at least 3,000 extra beds have been prepared in 10 field hospitals around Bangkok. The government has also confirmed that additional field hospitals are being set up in other potential ‘hot zones’, including Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Hua Hin. Some of them were set up last year, and since closed, and now being prepared for new positive infections.

One Thai person who had been in one of the field hospitals put together a check-list of things to take IF you end up as an invited ‘guest’ HERE.

The CCSA say they are looking for additional beds in hotels and previous state quarantine facilities (where repatriating Thais were housed for their free quarantine) to be used if needed.

This year’s Songkran had bad timing, coming just a week after a number of major clusters were identified around some of Bangkok’s popular nightlife areas in 3 key inner city districts. Even before Songkran these isolated clusters had already spread into the provinces. In the weekend before Songkran the government had already listed 37 provinces which had instigated some form of paperwork or restrictions for people who had been in any of the 3 Bangkok districts.

The government also leapt on the source of the new outbreaks – bars, clubs and entertainment venues – and promptly shut them down for at least 2 weeks. At this stage it looks likely that that ban will be extended beyond the 2 weeks and, depending on the extent of new infections following the Songkran holiday, additional restrictions will also be added.

Even today the Civil Aviation Authority published a number of new in-flight restrictions for passengers – another blow to the hard-hit domestic aviation sector.

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Covid UPDATE: Daily infection number drops slightly on Tuesday

Tim Newton

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Covid UPDATE: Daily infection number drops slightly on Tuesday | Thaiger

965 people have been detected as infected with Covid-19 in the past 24 hours. The daily total is the first drop in daily numbers for 13 days. 28,288 people have fully recovered. The total deaths remains at 97 people since the start of the pandemic in Thailand. 6,190 people remain under hospital care or are being monitored.

654 of today’s cases are local community infections.

Out of today’s infections, the CCSA announced that most were in the northern city of Chiang Mai (251) which has been hit particularly hard, followed by Bangkok (194), Chonburi (97), Prachuap Khiri Khan (73), Nakhon Ratchasima (67), Samut Prakan (49), Samut Sakhon (34), Rayong (25) and Pathum Thani (21). 8 new infections were officially reported in Phuket by the CCSA.

Regarding vaccinations, 578,532 people have now been vaccinated. Yesterday, 6,424 people received their first injection, 2,056 received their second Covid vaccine.

There’s now a total of 34,575 people who have now been infected with the coronavirus in Thailand.

Covid UPDATE: Daily infection number drops slightly on Tuesday | News by Thaiger

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WHO says pandemic reaching critical levels in South Asia

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WHO says pandemic reaching critical levels in South Asia | Thaiger
Stock photo via World Bank Blogs

Despite vaccines being rolled out, the WHO is warning that the Covid-19 pandemic has reached a “critical level” in South Asia as infections keep rising. The virus has already taken 2.9 million lives, infecting 136 million worldwide and the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, says the “trajectory of this pandemic is growing…exponentially.”

“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic when we have proven control measures. We are at a critical point of the pandemic right now.”

The US is still the country with the most amount of infections, but India has recently taken the number 2 spot over Brazil, reporting 168,000 new cases in 1 day. India’s total amount of infections is now at 13.5 million, edging Brazil’s 13.48 million into the number 3 spot.

But a race among nations for Covid infections is not what the WHO – or anyone for that matter – is wanting. 28 year old Rohit, a waiter in Mumbai, seems to say that the race won’t end if people continue to not listen to safety protocols.

“The solution is for everyone to stay home for two months and end this (pandemic) once and for all. But the public doesn’t listen. Nobody follows the rules in the restaurant… If we tell customers to wear masks, they are rude and disrespectful to us.”

Ignoring the social – distancing rules has experts up in arms as they warn that huge, mass gatherings are what we all thought they were: a super spreader event for Covid-19.

But the Indian government appears desperate to avoid a repeat of last year’s nationwide March shutdown which saw some of the world’s toughest measures causing misery all around. Thus, the balance between managing a country’s overall health and financial situation is a tedious one.

Bangladesh has chosen health, for now, as it is shuttering both international and domestic airports from tomorrow. Its population of 160 million people, will be sealed off from the rest of the world.

And, in Thailand, a 3rd wave has hit, making plans for a full reopening by October, seem to be in vain. Social distancing and mass gatherings are, again, to blame, as entertainment venues sparked the recent spread. As normally tourism-heavy destinations, like the Andaman island of Phuket, are rapidly inoculating its residents to prepare for a July reopening, the new wave has dampened hopes of reviving the economy.

For now, the efforts to contain the Covid pandemic have been futile worldwide, but history has a habit of repeating itself, especially when safety protocols fall on deaf ears.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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