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WHO says lockdowns aren’t enough, urgent measures needed now

Jack Burton

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WHO says lockdowns aren’t enough, urgent measures needed now | The Thaiger
PHOTO: - Thai PBS World
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The World Health Organisation is warning that national “lockdowns” aren’t enough to defeat the Covid-19 coronavirus, and that public health measures are urgently needed to prevent a resurgence of the disease once the numbers of infections begin to fall.

Given the failure of the ‘lockdowns’ and border closures in Italy four weeks ago, the WHO are asking national governments to step up and enforce much more stringent orders to slow down the spread of the virus.

“What we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus, and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them. The danger right now with the lockdowns… if we don’t put in place the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted, the danger is the disease will jump back up.”

The US and much of Europe are following China and other Asian countries and introducing drastic restrictions to fight the virus, with most workers encouraged to work from home, and schools, bars, pubs and restaurants being closed. But it hasn’t been enough at this stage.

A spokesman for the WHO says the examples of China, Singapore and South Korea, which coupled restrictions on movement with rigorous measures to test every possible suspect, provided a model for Europe, which has replaced Asia as the epicentre of the pandemic.

“Once we’ve suppressed the transmission, we have to go after the virus. We have to take the fight to the virus.”

Italy is now the country hardest hit by the virus in terms of the number of deaths, and British PM Boris Johnson has warned that his nation’s health system could be overwhelmed unless people practice social distancing. The British housing minister says production of tests will double next week and ramp up thereafter.

The WHO also says that several vaccines are in development, but only one had begun trials, in the US. Asked how long it would take before there was a vaccine available in Britain, a spokesman that people “need to be realistic.”

Epidemiologists and scientists have constantly warned the world that a viable vaccine could be at least a year away.

“We have to make sure that it’s absolutely safe… we are talking at least a year. The vaccines will come, but we need to get out and do what we need to do now.”

SOURCE: Reuters

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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.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Hong Kong partially locks down, forcing thousands to undergo Covid screening

The Thaiger

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Hong Kong partially locks down, forcing thousands to undergo Covid screening | The Thaiger

Hong Kong’s government is forcing a partial lockdown until 10,000 residents of an area in the Kowloon peninsula, complete a Covid-19 test. The 2 day lockdown in the city’s poorest neighbourhood of Jordan, comes after a new strain of the coronavirus was identified, making it the 1st lockdown that the city has seen.

The area, which features many deteriorating buildings and 150 stacked housing blocks, has confirmed 162 confirmed cases of Covid-19 this month, with the ratio of virus detected in sewage samples from buildings there was higher than that of other areas.

Over the last 2 months the city has been hit by a 4th wave of infections with authorities struggling to bring the daily numbers down. Such clusters have hit the low-income neighbourhoods the most, which are notorious for cramped conditions in districts such as Yau Tsim Mong.

In recent days, health officials began mandatory testing in some 70 buildings in the area but the government has now decided to test everyone much to the confusion of local residents. As rumours of a lockdown were leaked to the local media, the government didn’t officially announce the measure until this morning. The area is also home to many ethnic minorities, mainly South Asian Hong Kongers, a community that often faces discrimination and poverty.

Earlier in the week a senior health official was criticised when he suggested ethnic minority residents might be spreading the virus more readily because “they like to share food, smoke, drink alcohol and chat together.”

The health official’s comments also came as a video was released of predominantly white migrants dancing at a packed brunch on the more affluent Hong Kong Island. But those who agreed with the health official pointed to cramped conditions, not race or culture, as being the cause of the virus spreading more easily.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Phuket wants Bangkok arrivals to skip quarantine to help tourism revenue

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Phuket wants Bangkok arrivals to skip quarantine to help tourism revenue | The Thaiger

Phuket’s tourism representatives are calling for an end to the mandatory quarantine levied at tourists arriving to the province from Bangkok. The tourism delegation have also told Phuket’s provincial government to be prepared to start receiving international tourists starting in October.

According to The Phuket News, such a plan would include a requirement for all international travellers to Thailand to have the Covid-19 vaccine. By that time, it is expected that Phuket will have 70% of its population vaccinated, with the timeline possibly being sped up by the province planning to buy the vaccines with its own funds. Such a move would bypass the national government’s timeline with the hopes of innoculating registered residents quicker. Governor Narong says such quarantine measures in place currently are preventing the province from profitting off domestic tourism.

“Phuket has been hit hard by the 2nd epidemic. Thai tourists do not come because they do not want to quarantine and follow the difficult steps to enter the province, not to mention there are no foreign tourists at this time.”

In a meeting, the PTA President Bhummikitti, said the Covid-19 vaccine was “the last ticket and the last hope” for Phuket tourism, “because Phuket tourism has no way out at this time.”

“Thai people are unable to travel due to the second outbreak, and foreign tourists are not to be mentioned at all. Vaccines are the hope of the Phuket tourism sector.”

“The private sector wants to get clarity from the government whether we can follow this plan or not, because if it is left like this – open, close, lockdown and so on, as in the past – local businesses are all dead.”

Bhummikitti pointed out that the government had promised to work with local industry on all matters related to Covid-19 and keeping the local economy alive. He said that the move would “allow tourism and the Phuket economy to be able to walk once more from having fewer Thai tourists.”

Governor Narong said tracking systems will be in place when tourists do come back to the province.

“In order to ensure tourists that Phuket citizens as well as incoming tourists are safe from the Covid-19 virus, there will be a tracking system, and a fund established to be used as a remedy [sic] to help those affected if there is an infection from incoming tourists.”

SOURCE: The Phuket News

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Eastern provinces growing impatient with safety measures as Covid cases decrease

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Eastern provinces growing impatient with safety measures as Covid cases decrease | The Thaiger

Thailand’s eastern provinces are growing impatient as local businesses and residents await a relaxation in Covid-19 safety measures after seeing a drop in cases. Chonburi, Chanthaburi, Trat and Rayong are under a “highly controlled” status set by the CCSA (Samut Sakhon, south west of Bangkok, also falls into the same category at this time). These provinces, along with Samut Sakhon and Samut Prakarn, are under the strictest control measures in the country.

The cause of such tough measures levied upon the provinces was due to a spike in Covid cases after illegal gambling operations in Rayong and Chonburi were found to feature participants with the Covid-19 virus. But now, those areas are reporting very few cases of the virus leaving residents frustrated as they are unable to make a living or travel.

There has been only 1 case in the past 2 days in all 4 of the Eastern provinces. That case was in Rayong, with all other cases being in the low single digits. On top of the low cases, any new cases have been promptly dealt with by requiring contact-tracing, tracking and quarantine. But any hopes of the measures relaxing has been pushed back to the end of the month, with many questioning such a delay.

Bangkok, which has seen more cases reported than all 4 eastern provinces combined, is now easing restrictions by allowing 13 types of businessesto reopen. The move has baffled the eastern provinces as such businesses are still ordered to shutter. The government has responded, somewhat, by offering a 3,500 baht handout for 2 months, but registration for the handout doesn’t start until the end of this month. When the money actually hits residents’ pockets is also unknown as it could take weeks.

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