Medical chief in favour of re-opening borders, calls zero cases target unrealistic

PHOTO: Erik Odiin on Unsplash

A senior Thai medical professional has confirmed he’s in favour of Thailand re-opening its borders, saying attempting to maintain zero cases of Covid-19 is “unrealistic”. Somsak Akksilp, from the Department of Medical Services, insists the country is adequately prepared in the event of a resurgence of the virus and, with no date set for vaccine availability, the country must move on.

“We cannot afford to maintain zero cases forever. We need to re-open the country. The country must move forward, and people have jobs to do. This means we may have to see a small number of infections, but if we work together to prevent them, the country will be able to achieve a balance between public health and the economy.”

Somsak is confident the nation’s hospitals have enough beds to treat Covid-19 patients if necessary, adding that the public can have faith in the country’s healthcare system.

“We have upgraded our medical system. We won the first round because of the trust between the people and doctors. We believe we will get through this.”

He was speaking as the Public Health Ministry seeks to reduce the quarantine period for foreign tourists to 10 days initially and, if that proves successful, to 7 days for arrivals from “low-risk” countries. However, Interior Minister, Anupong Paojinda, says more research is required before this can happen.

The chairman of the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation echoes Somsak’s claim that Thailand can handle a fresh outbreak of Covid-19. Sophon Mekthon says there are sufficient supplies of PPE and Thailand has the ability to produce more if necessary.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Department of Disease Control says it has the necessary manpower to control the spread of the virus. It’s understood the DDC plans to triple the 1,000 rapid investigation teams currently in place, in order to curtail any potential spread of the virus and reduce the death rate to below 1.4%.

Meanwhile, the arrival of Thailand’s first tourists in over 6 months, scheduled to take place in Phuket this week, has been pushed back. A group of 120 Chinese visitors arriving under the Special Tourist Visa scheme were supposed to land yesterday, but their much-anticipated arrival has been delayed, for reasons that are not entirely clear.

Officials have been vague on the delay, at one point blaming paperwork issues associated with the STV, but later saying the delay was to avoid deterring anxious Thai tourists from travelling to Phuket for the Vegetarian Festival. Yuthasak Supasorn from the Tourism Authority of Thailand insists the foreign visitors will arrive by the end of the month.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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