Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha hopes the COVID-19 situation in the country will ease in the next four to six weeks, a source said, amid public concerns over a rise in daily coronavirus cases.
“I hope the situation will improve in the next four to six weeks based on the current medical evidence,” the source quoted Gen Chan-o-cha saying during an online meeting as the infection rate set another daily record of 16,533 new cases, along with 133 fatalities on Wednesday.
“But I am concerned about the public use of antigen test kits. I am not sure whether they know how to use them properly,” Gen Chan-o-cha reportedly said.
Gen Chan-o-cha, in his capacity as the director of the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), chaired an online meeting attended by governors of 12 “dark-red zone” provinces — Pathum Thani, Chon Buri, Nonthaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Samut Sakhon, Ayutthaya, Chanchoengsao, Samut Prakan, Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala, and Songkha.
The urgent meeting was held because Gen Chan-o-cha wanted to better understand how each governor was managing the COVID-19 situation, said Anucha Burapachaisri, government spokesman.
Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and other agencies were involved but the Bangkok governor did not attend.
The prime minister told the governors to update the government on their problems so the government could step in to fix them. They were also instructed to monitor and prevent transmissions caused by people moving across provinces.
During the meeting, each governor reported how they were handling COVID-19 infections. For example, the Chachoengsao governor said that a bubble and seal method was adopted to control infections at factories and worker camps which are the main clusters in the province, with workers travelling from other provinces such as Samut Prakan.
Some factories were ordered closed for 14 days, the governor said. The meeting agreed the bubble and seal approach should be applied to provinces with COVID-19 clusters breaking out at factories.
During the meeting, Gen Chan-o-cha asked the governors whether the number of daily infections in their provinces had dropped at all, but none had any reply, the source said.
Gen Chan-o-cha said that they must publicise the number of people who had recovered and were discharged from hospitals, which in turn shows the number of hospital beds available for new patients, the source said.
Mr Burapachaisri added that Gen Chan-o-cha told the meeting that the government is not sitting idle, adding that it has assigned the Public Health Ministry to adjust its policy to treat COVID-19 patients under home isolation or community isolation.
Mr Burapachaisri said Gen Chan-o-cha insisted the country is not facing a shortage of medical supplies, including medicine and oxygen tanks. He pledged to provide support for all provinces, insisting COVID-19 vaccines will still be distributed to provinces as per government policy.
Mr Charnvirakul gave an assurance that from next month onwards, an average of 10 million vaccine doses will be procured per month and an average of 1 million doses will be administered per day. The doses will be distributed to all target areas designated by the CCSA.
Meanwhile, Chalermchai Boonyaleepun, deputy chairman of a Senate committee on public health, said on social media there may be about 400,000-500,000 asymptomatic cases in Bangkok.
Symptomatic cases account for 20% of infections while asymptomatic cases account for up to 80%, Dr Boonyaleepun said. Even though RT-PCR tests are reliable, they have capacity constraints and are expensive, limiting large-scale use.
Therefore, most of the new daily cases were those detected in hospitals and medical facilities while the number of cases defected from proactive mass testing were lower, he said.