Secretary for Health Kiatthiphum Wongrajit told a media briefing that the ministry had decided to raise the national threat level to third after the number of new cases of Omicron virus infection rose from 104 last Wednesday to 514 on Monday.
In light of the new threat from the Omicron variant, the ministry has warned that new cases could rise to 30’000 per day early next year if strict precautions are not observed, and has suggested three possible scenarios for the further development of the epidemiological situation, Dr Kiattifum said.
According to the doctor, in a best-case scenario, there would be around 10’000 new infections in Thailand as early as the end of January, with the number of deaths predicted to range between 60 and 70 per day.
In the second scenario, authorities would register between 15,000 and 16,000 new cases a day. And in the worst-case scenario, when additional precautions are not taken against the rapidly spreading variant or if the population refuses to comply with disease control measures, new infections could reach 30’000 daily, with 170 to 180 deaths per day,” Kiattyfum added.
The doctor continued that in the best-case scenario, the outbreak would be brought under control within one or two months, while in the second scenario it would take a little longer to stabilise the situation.
In the third scenario, new infections would peak in early March and health authorities would need three to four months to control the situation in this scenario.
Thailand’s health ministry does not expect mortality rates from the new variant to be as high as those from the Delta variant. However, the spokesperson said the virus is likely to spread faster and this dictates that people at risk should be vaccinated quickly to prevent the worst effects.
Dr Kiattifum also assured the public that there were enough beds and medicines to cope with the new surge in infections. There are currently about 170’000 available hospital beds for patients and about 15 million favipiravir tablets, enough for at least two months.
Dr Kiattiphum added that strict adherence to disease control measures and the progress of the national vaccination campaign will ultimately determine the success of the fight against the Omicron variant.
Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control, said the alert had been upgraded to level 3 to allow the government to step up efforts to prevent, detect and control infections.
“The ministry is concerned about the likely increase in new cases after the New Year as a result of the mass movement of people,” he said, noting that many people plan to return to their hometowns to celebrate the holiday with their families, while others plan to take part in public events later in the year.
“A wider spread of the virus is expected after the New Year holidays as Omicron is much more contagious,” said Opas Karnkawinpong. He advised offices to continue working from home to limit the spread of the disease.
The Covid-19 situation management centre in Thailand said the number of cases of Omicron infection had increased fivefold from 104 on Wednesday last week to 514.
“Two-thirds of the new cases of Omicron were from abroad and one-third were people who came into close contact with infected people,” the director of the Department of Disease Control said.
He said the biggest cluster was concentrated around a couple who returned to Calasin after visiting their relatives in Belgium on December 10. Of the 514 cases of Omicron disease identified in Thailand as of yesterday, about 90% of patients showed mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.
A total of 2’437 new cases of Covid-19 and a further 18 deaths have been reported in Thailand in the past 24 hours, according to the Ministry of Health.
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