Thailand approves to declare COVID-19 as endemic

 Monday, January 31, 2022 

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The government authorities in Thailand approved new guidelines on Friday for declaring the Covid-19 pandemic an endemic disease. Rungrueng Kitphati, the spokesperson for the ministry of public health, said it would take the government around six months to a year to be able to make the decision to start treating Covid-19 as an illness such as the flu or measles. It is also noted that the country is also starting quarantine-free visa program for vaccinated visitors from next month, with the tourism-dependent nation shifting its focus toward economic recovery after a dip in new Covid-19 infections.

Health secretary Kiattiphum Wongrajit had said that the Thailand ministry’s National Communicable Disease Committee planned to declare Covid-19 endemic on its own academically acceptable criteria. Previously, the tourism authorities in Thailand urged the government to reduce the cost of RT-PCR Tests.

The guidelines are made up of three criteria, which the country currently meets.

They criteria states that there should be fewer than 10,000 new cases per day, that the fatality rate should be no higher than 0.1 per cent of those who are admitted to the hospital with an infection and that more than 80 per cent of at-risk people have had at least two vaccinations.

Thailand has been reporting daily fresh cases between 7,000 and 9,000. The fatality rate has declined to 0.1 per cent as well.

Mr Rungrueng added that more than 80 per cent of at-risk people have been fully vaccinated as per the requirement. Even though the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said it was too early to consider any shifts in the status of the disease, Thailand has now joined Spain and Switzerland in considering declaring the Covid-19 disease to be endemic.

The UN’s health agency, however, has not yet defined criteria for declaring Covid to be endemic, given the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

WHO experts had previously said the criteria would be fleshed out when the novel coronavirus, that causes Covid, becomes more predictable and there are no sustained outbreaks.

“In principle, the disease could spread but is not severe. The fatality rate is acceptable. There can be waves of the disease. But importantly, people must have adequate immunity. People must be vaccinated, and treatment systems efficient,” Mr Wongrajit was quoted.

The country, an immensely popular southeast Asian tourist destination, had announced last week that it was resuming its quarantine-free visa programme for vaccinated visitors starting next month, in an effort to revive its crippling economy.

The country’s finance ministry forecast the nation to receive 7 million foreign visitors in 2022. It also maintained this year’s economic growth forecast at 4 per cent, driven by a recovery in domestic spending and tourism.

Thailand reported 8,078 new cases and 22 deaths on Friday taking the tally to 2.4 million confirmed cases since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. The country has fully vaccinated 70 per cent of its entire population or roughly 48.3 million people.

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