The Public Health Ministry will allow hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients as outpatients as part of efforts to declare the virus endemic within the next four months.
Kiatiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary for public health, said the outpatient scheme for people infected with COVID-19 is tentatively scheduled to take effect on 1st March.
Under the scheme, people suspected of being infected will be screened with an antigen test kit (ATK) and if the result is positive, doctors will consider prescribing favipiravir or fah talai jone, and other medications based on symptoms.
He said the planned outpatient service is part of the ministry’s plan to downgrade COVID-19 to a disease that can be treated with self-care.
According to Dr Wongrajit, several COVID-19 patients in Chiang Mai and Phuket are receiving treatment at home and Siriraj Hospital is preparing a similar system in which those with mild symptoms will be isolated at home.
He also said that at-risk groups can be treated as outpatients depending on their doctors’ assessments.
Department of Medical Services director-general Somsak Akkasilp said the ministry is holding talks with three medical societies in drawing up guidelines for medical care for COVID-19 outpatients.
He said the move follows Paediatric Society of Thailand guidelines about care for young COVID-19 patients which say children below 15 can be treated as outpatients.
The ministry will discuss with the Royal College of Paediatricians Thailand, the Royal College of Physicians of Thailand and the Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Home and community isolation programmes will not be scrapped, he said.
Dr Akkasilp said the treatment of COVID-19 is changing based on the situation, noting that the ministry would not have considered this option if the dominant strain was Delta, which causes moderate to severe symptoms.
“Based on findings, 90% of patients have mild symptoms, don’t need hospitalisation and can do with follow-ups. So, we’re considering following the Royal College of Paediatricians Thailand,” he said.