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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Senior health official says dire infection forecasts “very unlikely”

Jack Burton

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Senior health official says dire infection forecasts “very unlikely” | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Access WDUN
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Doctors from various departments, ministries and universities are making grim predictions about the Covid-19 coronavirus infection rate in Thailand, some saying that by mid-April cases in Thailand will reach 350,000, with about 7,000 fatalities.

Responding to some of the most dire forecasts, a senior doctor at the Ministry of Public Health’s Disease Control Department is dismissing these scenarios as “very unlikely.”

DCD deputy director-general Dr Thanarak Phlipat said in a Facebook post today that he’s received many enquiries about whether forecasts of an “exponential rise in the number of infections and fatalities” are reasonable.

He responded by saying they are “very unlikely.”

With a little over two weeks to go before April 15, Thanarak says predictions of 7,000 fatalities for Thailand in the case of no lockdowns, and 485 if a lockdown is imposed, are “inflated.”

Thailand’s death toll, as of yesterday, stood at just 7 out of the 1,388 confirmed virus infections nationwide.

Thanarak wrote that he doesn’t know what assumptions were used in those forecasts and doubted the forecasters’ expertise in epidemiology and biological statistics.

“Most importantly, I don’t know what their motive is for releasing those figures.”

He explained that the Public Health Ministry has epidemiologists to develop forecasts, which are updated periodically, based on the latest data. These predictions are used in formulating plans for dealing with the pandemic.

Thanarak believes the worst case scenario up to April 15 would be 25,000 infections if no antivirus measures are taken at all, and if there are no more cluster infections, like “boxing match cluster” and those from entertainment venues.

He says with the imposition of social distancing measures, which are currently being observed by only about 50% of the Thai population, the number of infections is predicted to reach 17,600, but this could be cut to 7,700 if 80% of the population were to follow the measures.

Thanarak stressed that these figures were worked out on the basis of the best data available used to guide official government policy, and were not invented to cause public confusion. He advised that any predictions about the pandemic must be based on undistorted, verifiable facts.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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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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