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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Professor says social distancing, self-isolation are crucial to control infection



PHOTO: Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of the faculty of medicine Siriraj Hospital of Mahidol University

“People must stay home and not socialise, or Thailand will become like Italy with coronavirus patients overwhelming health resources and medical personnel having to decide which patients to treat, or not.”

Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of the faculty of medicine Siriraj Hospital of Mahidol University, yesterday emphasised the need for strict social distancing on the university’s online TV channel, saying the number of people with Covid-19 coronavirus in Thailand is skyrocketing, like those of European countries that were unable to control their outbreaks. He blames the situation on people who visited mass venues like boxing stadiums and pubs, and refused to self-isolate.

Countries that failed to control the disease saw infections rise from 100 to 200 in three days. The same increase in Thailand took just 3.5 days.

“If we do nothing, we will become a country that is unable to control the disease.”

As of yesterday, the number of Covid-19 cases in Thailand was rising by 33% daily. At that rate, the number of infections would reach about 350,000 and deaths total about 7,000 by April 15, according to Prasit. The number of critically ill cases would by then be about 17,000, exceeding the country’s medical resources.

“That would be like the situation in Italy. Decisions would then have to be made whether to treat someone, or not. I do not want that to happen”

To limit the number of patients to within the country’s capacity to treat them, the increase in cases nationwide must be limited at 20% daily.

“To achieve this, people must stay at home, do not socialise… If you must go out to buy food, you must wear a mask, go the shortest distance and return home as fast as possible.”

“Talking normally to another person produces droplets that travel about a metre. So people must stay at least two metres apart. When you are talking to people, you must wear a mask. Wash your masks daily. A communicable disease cannot be transmitted if people do not make contact. Home is the safest place, unless there is an infected person. It is difficult, but still possible. It must start today, or it will be too late.”

Prasit says following these practises would limit the case increase rate to within 20% a day, and the number of new cases would start to fall in four weeks. He also called for a complete ban on visitors, saying thermal scans don’t work work because many infected people don’t have a fever during their initial period of infection.

“When they have a fever, the disease has already damaged their lungs and they will need lung support devices.”


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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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