Thailand will try to strike a balance between keeping the economy functioning and safeguarding public health when the COVID-19 pandemic eases, says Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.
Speaking during the online forum Bangkok Post Conference 2022: Omicron Crisis, Mr Charnvirakul said balancing public health and the economy will be a priority as the number of infections from the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which have soared sharply in recent days, are expected to decline.
“After the Omicron infections reach their peak and case numbers drop, with more international travellers, Thailand will devise measures to suit the changing global situation. We will find a balance between public health safety and pursuing economic recovery,” Mr Charnvirakul told the forum on Thursday.
He said that the country should turn the pandemic into an opportunity, adding that the Omicron variant is not as severe as other strains, particularly the Delta strain.
“We should change the way we look at the crisis. Instead of seeing ourselves struggling to overcome it, we should find or create an opportunity in the crisis,” Mr Charnvirakul said.
“With our experience in dealing with the outbreak last year, we can also handle Omicron very well.
“Even though the number of infections has soared, as predicted by medical experts, the daily number of patients on ventilators in intensive care units is only about 100, while daily cases of severe symptoms such as lung inflammation do not exceed 1,000. The fatality rate is at about 0.2% or about 20 to 30 deaths per day,” Mr Charnvirakul said.
The deaths were mostly caused by complications, or because patients had not received a vaccine, he said.
He gave assurances that there are still enough hospital beds for patients with severe symptoms while patients who are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms a self-isolate at home with the aid of telemedicine.
Even though Omicron is less severe than Delta, it is still more transmissible, and everyone will have to maintain precautions while medical personnel will also have to keep up their medical service standards, Mr Charnvirakul said.
He also stressed the need for people to get their vaccine shots to prevent the worst effects of COVID-19.
“There are now enough vaccines to administer booster shots for all Thais and foreign expatriates,” Mr Charnvirakul said.
” More than 120 million vaccine doses have been administered to Thais and expatriates. Some 75% of the population received their first shots, and 26% got their booster shots. About 90 million more vaccine doses will be procured this year,” Mr Charnvirakul said.
“COVID-19 has hit the economy and public health over the past two years. But we will do everything we can to ensure people are safe and can go about their normal lives,” he said.
Previously, the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) said the COVID-19 outlook for Thailand was positive as the surge in cases was expected to stabilise and begin falling this week, corresponding with the global trend.
The Centre for Medical Genomics at Ramathibodi Hospital also expected the number of COVID-19 infections to start dropping towards the end of this month.