Health Ministry Proposes New Targeted Lockdowns

Kiattiphum Wongrajit

The Public Health Ministry has proposed new “targeted lockdown” measures and a new colour-coding system to identify provinces most at risk of the latest COVID-19 outbreak.

Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary of the ministry, said yesterday the Public Health Emergency Operation Centre called an urgent meeting in response to the severity of the latest wave of COVID-19.

Thailand yesterday logged 11 new deaths, a record high that included a pregnant woman, raising the toll to 140. The government recorded 2,438 new coronavirus cases, all but five contracted locally, bringing the accumulated total since the pandemic began to 55,460.

He said it was agreed at the meeting that disease control measures will be tightened with zoning based on a revised colour-coding system to identify provinces hit by COVID-19.

Currently, red, orange, yellow, and green are used to illustrate the degree of COVID-19 infections in provinces affected by the disease.

The red zone means maximum control and a high number of infections; the second-highest control zone is orange, followed by the high surveillance zone (yellow) while the surveillance zone (green) applies to provinces without infection.

Under the new colour-coding system, there will be only three zones – dark red under special, maximum control, red and orange to respond to the current situation, Dr Wongrajit said.

He added that the communicable disease committees in all 77 provinces will be asked to adopt “targeted lockdown” measures to ban activities involving large crowd gatherings.

The proposals will be presented for consideration by the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), he said.

Dr Wongrajit said the meeting yesterday also discussed other urgent issues, particularly shortages of hospital beds in Bangkok, and tried to find ways to solve the problem, he said.

“It was found the problem stems from management procedures,” he said.

“Therefore, we discussed ways to better handle the management of beds.”

Currently, there are still enough beds, but if the transmissions become more severe, beds for severely ill patients will be only enough for the next two weeks, he said.

For those who are not severely ill or have mild symptoms, the Department of Medical Services has laid down a policy to reduce their time in hospital to 10 days.

This should help free up more beds for new cases, Dr Wongrajit said.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will meet for talks with the private sector on Wednesday to find ways to procure and allocate more COVID-19 vaccine doses, Traisuree Taisaranakul, the deputy government spokeswoman said.

Those who will attend the meeting include representatives of the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry, and Banking, the Federation of Thai Industries, the Board of Trade of Thailand, the Thai Bankers’ Association, and the Association of Thai Travel Agents.

“They will be given an opportunity to present proposals to buy more vaccine doses and ideas on how to distribute them after the private sector wanted to procure vaccine doses for personnel in the industrial sector,” Ms Taisaranakul said.

She said the prime minister would like to take advice from the private sector so he can decide on measures to control the spread and restore the economy.

She said the government has a sufficient budget and will spend the money to take care of people.

Meanwhile, Bangkok residents have been ordered to put on masks from today or risk a hefty fine, Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang announced yesterday.

Violators risk a fine up to 20,000 baht under the Communicable Disease Act.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration said in an announcement released yesterday the penalty would also apply to all establishments that fail to enforce mask-wearing for those on their premises.