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Top medic says Thailand can become Southeast Asia’s foremost medical hub

Maya Taylor




One of Thailand’s most prominent doctors says the country should aim to become the leading medical hub in Southeast Asia, before any future pandemics arise. Prasit Watanapa, from Siriraj Hospital’s Faculty of Medicine, has called on the Kingdom to seize the opportunity, in a speech at “Thailand’s Mega Trends Forum 2020” in Bangkok. The event was organised by Forbes Thailand.

Prasit says since the start of the 21st century, the world has already endured 5 virulent diseases: SARS in 2002, swine flu in 2009, MERS in 2012, Zika in 2015, and now Covid-19. He points out that there will, inevitably, be more.

“Humans, animals and the environment are intertwined. As long as we cause climate change, we will face new diseases, as the migration of (animal) vectors brings about the rapid spread of viruses. Covid-25 and Covid-30 will come. 3 months ago, I warned of a second wave (of the coronavirus). We should learn to tackle it and identify an opportunity.”

In the age of a connected world, physically and digitally, the spread of human-borne viruses becomes particularly easy, and the spread of misinformation even easier. As more people travel, exacerbated by the rise of budget aviation, pandemics will develop faster and become more difficult to mitigate.

The Bangkok Post reports that in his address, Prasit has called on Thailand to further improve its disease prevention measures. He points out that each of the Covid-19 vaccines currently in development, particularly the ones in the US, are being fought over by countries that are richer and more developed.

“Our local development is very limited because we still import vaccines from abroad. However, vaccination is now a matter of national security.”

He adds that he can’t see the any vaccine production being set up in the neighbouring countries of Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia or Laos, and that this provides a potential opportunity for Thailand. For Thailand to be known as the foremost medical hub in the region however, it needs to get better at diagnostics and embrace the technology that enables this.

“If we can enhance our health literacy, everything will become much more convenient. We can predict the risk of cancer, drug allergies, and optimise medical procedures. With the help of AI technology we have received from China, we have been able to diagnose Covid-19 much faster and with increased accuracy. 5G technology has helped support telemedicine. Currently, we are collaborating with Huawei to develop AI and Deep Learning technology for healthcare, which other countries in the region are not able to do. Thailand is a leader.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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