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Covid-19 Updates | 2023

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  • Covid-19 Updates | 2023

    Daily Covid-19 cases in Bangkok spike after Songkran

    Bangkok‘s daily number of Covid-19 cases has experienced a significant spike, nearly doubling from 400 to 700 in the wake of the city’s recent Songkran festival. This has led to growing concerns among local authorities, who fear that the true extent of the situation might not yet be fully understood. The deputy City Clerk at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), Dr. Wantanee Watana, has warned that the situation may deteriorate further, with some cases potentially not having been reported to the relevant authorities, or still being in the process of being recorded. This could result in the daily number of Covid-19 cases in the Thai capital rising even further to approximately 1,000 cases per day.

    Despite the alarming surge in the quantity of reported cases, Dr. Wantanee has urged the public not to panic over the sudden resurgence of infections. She stated that the majority of new cases appear to involve older sub-variants of the virus rather than the emerging Omicron sub-variant XBB.1.16, which has registered 27 reported instances so far. Therefore, this issue should not be a cause for immediate concern. Nonetheless, in order to ensure the continued safety of vulnerable individuals, Dr. Wantanee has strongly advised senior citizens and those with existing chronic health issues to receive bivalent vaccines such as Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca. This applies to both booster shots and initial vaccinations for those who are yet to receive their jabs.

    These vaccines are available free of charge courtesy of the BMA, and can be obtained at Vajira Hospital as well as 69 other designated public centres throughout the city, Bangkok Post reported. In a related incident, yesterday saw the tragic discovery of a homeless man’s body in front of a bank situated in the Tha Phra Chan area of Bangkok. The man, believed to be in his 50s, had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, and authorities have so far been unable to identify him in the absence of any identification documents. Pol Lt Yosita Harikul, deputy inspector of Chana Songkhram police station, has reported that initial autopsy results indicate that pneumonia was the probable cause of the man’s untimely death. In order to confirm this, the body will be transported to the forensic department of Vajira Hospital for a more comprehensive examination.

  • #2
    XBB Omicron variant rising in Thailand: New strategies deployed

    Approximately 52% of new Covid-19 cases in Thailand have been attributed to the XBB sub-strain of the Omicron variant, according to the Centre for Medical Genomics. As a result, a prominent doctor has urged the public to obtain booster shots before the onset of the rainy season. The XBB variant and its sub-strains have been responsible for recent surges in Covid infections worldwide, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to change the designation of the XBB.1.16 sub-substrain from a “variant under monitoring” to a “variant of interest”.

    In Thailand, the Ramathibodi Hospital’s Centre for Medical Genomics reports that 34 current cases have been caused by the XBB1.15 sub-strain, accounting for approximately 15% of all Covid cases in the country. The Centre for Medical Genomics is in the process of developing a test kit specifically targeting the XBB sub-variant, utilising the mass array genotyping technology. This will aid in detecting and identifying the variant. In addition, the centre is striving to enhance its antigen test kits to enable them to determine the specific sub-strain responsible for a patient’s infection. The work is projected to be completed within the next two weeks. Based on genomic analysis by the Centre for Medical Genomics, it is expected that the XBB.1.16 sub-variant will become the dominant sub-strain in Thailand in the coming months.

    Yong Poovorawan, head of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, has recommended that Covid vaccinations be administered annually, akin to influenza vaccinations. He underscored that the purpose of the Covid vaccine is not to prevent infection but to protect recipients from severe symptoms, hospitalisation, and death, particularly among vulnerable groups. Poovorawan noted that outbreaks typically occur at the beginning of the rainy season or at the start of the school term. As such, he suggests that the ideal timeframe for booster shots is between May and June. Beginning May 1, both Covid and influenza vaccines will be accessible at hospitals throughout the country. Vaccinations against both viruses are encouraged for the “608” vulnerable group, which includes senior citizens, individuals with underlying health conditions, medical personnel, and frontline workers. Hospitals and medical centres registered with the National Health Security Office will offer Covid vaccines. The Pao Tang mobile app provides a list of affiliated hospitals. Residents of Bangkok can make advanced bookings for vaccines through the app from April 17 to August 31. With the expected rise in XBB sub-variant cases, timely vaccinations and booster shots remain crucial for public health and maintaining hospital capacity.


    • #3
      Covid-19 inpatients and deaths surge by 150% in Thailand after Songkran Celebrations

      In the aftermath of the Songkran celebrations, which concluded on April 15, the number of Covid-19 inpatients and related deaths has seen a significant increase of 150% in just one week. According to the Department of Disease Control, there were 1,088 Covid inpatients from April 16 to 22, compared to the previous week’s figure of 435. Furthermore, the number of fatalities rose from two to five within the same period. The increase in cases also extended to inpatients suffering from lung inflammation, with the number rising to 73, up by 143% from the previous week’s 30 cases. Patients requiring ventilator support also saw a notable increment of 84%, rising from 19 to 35 individuals. Dr Atthapol Kaewsamrit, Deputy Director-General of the Health Department, attributed these worrying figures to the risk of Covid transmissions at events and gatherings that took place during Songkran festivities.

      The Department of Disease Control has expressed significant concerns over the more than two million senior citizens still unvaccinated for Covid in the country. Dr Tares Krassanairawiwong, Chief of the Department, emphasised the importance of immediate vaccination for this age group to reduce the risk of severe illness or death from the disease. He cited that out of the five recorded deaths during April 16-22, four were unvaccinated senior citizens. Dr Tares said…

      “We have strongly recommended that people get the vaccine, including booster doses. They should come to get both the Covid and influenza vaccines simultaneously without any side effects. We have original, or bivalent typed vaccines to respond to their needs.”
      In addition, Dr Manoon Leechawengwongs, a pulmonologist at Vichaiyut Hospital, reported a unique case where a Covid patient developed pink eye and sticky eye mucus caused by the Omicron sub-variant XBB.1.16. The 42 year old man, who was infected with Covid abroad on April 13, started experiencing flu-like symptoms after arriving back in Thailand on April 16, followed by the aforementioned eye issues. The patient did not have a lung infection and made a full recovery after seven days of taking antiviral pills.

      In response to the surge in cases, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is taking steps to reopen vaccine distribution centres in the capital. Bangkok Governor Chadchart Sittipunt remarked that there could be approximately a million unvaccinated individuals in the city. Priority for vaccine distribution in Bangkok will be given to the “608” vulnerable group, which includes senior citizens with underlying diseases, medical personnel, and frontline workers. As the situation continues to change, it is crucial that people adhere to safety measures, get vaccinated, and stay informed about Covid developments.


      • #4
        Phuket sees Covid-19 surge, lax prevention and booster shot issues

        Thailand’s island province of Phuket has experienced a concerning surge in Covid-19 infections over the past month, according to the Provincial Public Health Office. Deputy Chief Dr Muanprae Boonlorm highlighted that Vachira Phuket Hospital has seen a rise in Covid-19 patients since the Songkran holiday in mid-April. The number of hospitalisations due to pneumonia and Covid-19 related fatalities have also increased compared to the February to March period,Bangkok Post reported.

        Dr. Muanprae attributed the increase in infections to people being lax in practicing preventive measures and a lack of fourth or fifth booster shots. Most of the fatalities between April and this month were among the ‘608’ at-risk group, which includes individuals aged 60 and over, those with underlying conditions, and pregnant women. Many in this group were found to be unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, with some receiving their last booster shots over a year ago.

        Despite the rising infections, Dr. Muanprae assured that the province has the capacity to handle hospitalisations from Covid-19, with only 15-20% of beds in Covid-19 wards currently occupied. Thais who have not received a booster shot in the last six months to a year can obtain their injections for free at any hospital on the island. Dr. Muanprae advised checking the availability of the vaccine with local hospitals, as some provide the vaccination service only once a week.

        In a related development, the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTAM) director-general, Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, emphasised the importance of herbal medicine in the public health system during a workshop on the promotion of traditional medicine. He revealed that the value of herbal medicine used last year surged to 5.2 billion baht, three times the previous year’s figure. The increase was attributed to more people turning to traditional medicine for Covid-19 treatment.

        Earlier this month, it was reported that Thailand’s Covid-19 cases had surged by 39% in one week.


        • #5
          Covid cases nosedive in Thailand: Unvaccinated elderly hit hardest

          The Public Health Ministry of Thailand yesterday announced there has been a dramatic reduction in Covid-19 infections in the kingdom adding that deaths related to the virus are largely those unvaccinated and over 70 years old. Public Health Secretary Dr Opas Karnka­winpong yesterday revealed there has been a steady decline in worldwide Covid cases and related mortalities. Parallel to this trend, Thai reports were reassuring, showing a reduction in coronavirus inpatients and dissipating clusters of outbreaks. Dr Opas made known that the majority of Covid-related deaths are among the “608” risk group. This group includes men and women who are 60 years or older, those with complicated health conditions, and pregnant women. The majority of them were unvaccinated and aged above 70.

          In light of these findings, Dr Opas stressed the necessity of Thai citizens following Covid prevention measures, such as avoiding large gatherings. He also emphasised the wearing of masks, particularly when near elderly individuals, children, and those with chronic health conditions. The Public Health Ministry is urging relatives of senior citizens, or those considered to be in the “608” group, to take advantage of the Covid vaccine boosters along with a flu shot. Families of children between six months and five years old who have not yet been vaccinated should act promptly, Dr Opas advised. He stressed that by doing so, the risk of these children suffering severe Covid symptoms or even death would drastically reduce, reported Bangkok Post.

          Dr Opas reassured the public that the prevalent subvariant in Thailand is of the Omicron lineage, which does not increase its likelihood of transmission. He confirmed that this particular virus can still be detected by conventional antigen-test kits or RT-PCR. Meanwhile, the worldometer platform revealed there have been 4,751,563 coronavirus cases in Thailand since the pandemic emerged late in 2019 and early 2020. There have been 34,328 deaths and 4,692,636 people have recovered from the virus.