Leading Thai doctor warns of possibility of second wave of Covid-19 if Thailand relaxes border restrictions and control

BANGKOK – The Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, Prof. Dr. Prasit Watanapa, has expressed his opinion that Thailand is susceptible to a second wave of COVID-19 infection, due to the persisting pandemic internationally, calling on all to work together to safeguard against the disease.

Dr. Prasit revealed statistics on COVID-19 globally, indicating the infection is still spreading and adding that many countries are already facing a second wave or outbreak of infections. While acknowledging that Thailand has not seen a new infection in over 50 days, he asserted that it does not mean the country is free of the disease or asymptomatic carriers.

Because of the recent cases of an Egyptian soldier with the virus traveling through Rayong province, and a Sudanese ambassador’s child, the dean urged stricter measures concerning those entering the nation, especially those coming illegally. He referred specifically to border control around land borders and nearby countries and recent efforts by relevant agencies to keep out illegal migrants.

Nonetheless, the doctor voiced confidence in the Thai peoples’ discipline and ability to maintain good practices, such as mask wearing, social distancing and registering with the Thai Chana Covid-19 tracing platform. He has given multiple warnings through Facebook live discussions on people letting their guard down, encouraging the Thai population to stay alert and not drop mask wearing or physical distancing until a vaccine can be found.

Dr. Prasit has given several dire warnings throughout the Covid-19 situation in Thailand, including in March when he predicted that Thailand would have 350,000 infections and about 7,000 deaths by April 15th if Thailand did not properly manage the disease. He also was one of the first voices to call for the ban of all foreign visitors in March, stating that it was too risky to allow border openings. In April, he warned that the mass exodus of staff, primarily from entertainment venues and red light districts, leaving Pattaya, Bangkok and Phuket to go to their home provinces would lead to a large second outbreak. In mid June, before Thailand lifted restrictions on the riskiest businesses like massage shops, bars and nightclubs and similar gathering places he warned that a second outbreak of infections would be “unavoidable” if the restrictions were removed, although would lead to lockdowns by area rather then an entire country.

Dr. Prasit has also said that he believes the main outbreak of the virus worldwide will continue until at least November, in statements in March when he said the virus would last roughly nine months in his opinion. He has remained steadfastly against exemptions for “VIPS” such as the Egyptian soldier or Sudan Girl and warned that the government must treat everyone equally in terms of virus control measures, regardless of their “elite” status or risk a second outbreak.

Thailand has, through a strict almost four month period of various lockdowns and business closures, border closures, curfews, domestic travel restrictions, hygiene measures and other restrictions had 58 deaths and only over 3,200 cases of Covid-19, many imported from overseas, as of press time.

Source: Thai National News Bureau with additional material by The Pattaya News team

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