Thailand may begin easing coronavirus restrictions in September, if Covid-19 vaccinations can increase and the virus’s spread slowed, although this week’s minute downward trend reversed on Saturday.
The Public Health Ministry reported today another 20,571 new Covid-19 cases and 261 deaths. Recoveries again exceeded new infections, however, with 23,159 people released. This week, daily cases have ranged from 20,902 and 19,851.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Friday that the semi-lockdown would need to be more effective in slowing the rate of infections. To date, it has slowed the epidemic only by 20 percent due to tepid compliance by the public, the government has said.
Prayut wrote on his Facebook Page that, despite daily new cases hovering around 20,000, there are positive signs that the infection rate is slowing. On several days recently, the number of patients who recovered exceeded the number of new infections.
As a result, the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration’s medical team agreed that everyone should increase precautions, by following “universal prevention’’ guidelines against infection, regardless of whether they are in at-risk groups or are already vaccinated.
The infection rate in metropolitan Bangkok has dropped to 41 percent, although the rate has risen to 59 percent in the provinces, CCSA spokesman Apisamai Srirangson said Friday.
That trend is expected to continue, but she reiterated that a more-effective lockdown would help reduce new cases and Covid-19 deaths.
“There are signs that the number of infections and fatalities are about to level off,” Apisamai said. “We hope the situation is getting better, and we must not make a mistake in this critical period.”
Dr. Kampanat Pornyotkrai, the surgeon behind the “Sarikahappymen” Facebook page agreed, saying he believes the peak already passed, based on the delta-variant wave in India.
Kampanat credited the government’s late and inept vaccination effort is slightly responsible for the slowing third wave. A quarter of the population now has had at least one vaccine dose with shots administered finally reaching the half-million mark daily on a regular basis.
On Friday, 651,606 vaccines were administered, with more than 2.2 million jabs jabbed since Monday.
Other virologists warn, however, that the country is sitting on a “ticking time bomb” because so many of those people were inoculated with the Chinese-made Sinovac Biotech vaccine, which is only marginally effective against variants such as delta.
All the experts, however, warned that while there is light at the end of the tunnel, the end of that tunnel is still months away.
“The upward curve took two to three months, so it will also take two to three months on the way down,” Kampanat said. “We will likely see infections drop from 19,000 to 18,000 to 17,000 until the curve is flat.”
A graphic worked up by the CCSA optimistically predicts that could happen at the end of September. But the CCSA also predicted the curve was to flatten in August.
He also predicted fatalities – which lag infections by two weeks or more – likely will peak in mid-October. Before then, however, another 3,000 people could die and 400,000 infected.