Despite renewed and serious threats of the coronavirus re-emerging in Thailand, face masks use continues to decline, especially among foreigners.
Public Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Kiattiphum Wongrajit said Thursday that its latest survey found only 51.4 per percent respondents saying they wear masks regularly.
The ministry poll of 2,670 people from Oct. 1-14 found 81.8 percent of ill people wearing masks, but only 67.1 percent of healthy people using them occasionally or more, down from 93.5 percent at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Only 51.4 percent said they continue to use masks regularly.
Foreigners are among the worst offenders of not wearing masks, mirroring the ignorant and irresponsible behavior of those in their homelands where the pandemic is raging.
While Thailand has been largely free of the coronavirus for the past five months – reporting only eight locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 in the past 157 days – even health officials have admitted that the virus probably is circulating silently around the country.
The virus already has seeped provinces along the border with Myanmar where the total number of cases on Thursday passed 50,000. Up from just a handful in mid-August.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports reported 1,331 new Covid-19 cases and 27 deaths on Oct. 29, bringing the total number of cases to 50,403 cases and 1,199 deaths.
Thailand’s neighbor now has the fourth-highest number of total coronavirus cases and the third-highest number of total deaths in Southeast Asia and the epidemic has become the wolf at Thailand’s door.
Earlier this month five local cases connected to a pair of Burmese truck drivers were found in Tak Province. More than 10,000 people were tested in two northern provinces and Mae Sot has been declared “safe” again, for now.
Dr. Tanarak Plipat, director-general of the Disease Control Department, predicted earlier this month that Covid-19 cases in Thailand could hit 6,000 if Myanmar’s out-of-control epidemic in Myanmar spills over the border.
Quarantine centers also remain a threat of re-introducing the virus into general circulation as shown by the case of a French-Thai dual citizen who apparently became infected with the coronavirus in an alternative state quarantine hotel in Samut Prakan, but wasn’t discovered until she traveled to Koh Samui.
“There has not been a vaccine,” Kiattiphum reminded people. “People can only protect themselves with DMHT. D stands for social distancing, M for masks, H for hand washing and T for quick testing and treatment. Doing these consistently can help prevent infection.”
The survey found habits of washing hands after using toilets and before and after meals remained stable at the good levels of 70-86 percent. The percentage of people going out amid Covid-19 concerns rose from 19.6 percent six months ago to 30 percent.
The survey also found that 29.2 percent of respondents were seriously concerned about Covid-19 and 65.6 percent were either moderately or slight worried.
The percentage of people confident of the disease control measures of the Ministry of Public Health rose from 61.8 percent at the beginning of the outbreak to 85.7% now.