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COVID-19 situation in Thailand remains stable: MOPH

One seriously ill patient on artificial lung; natural border crossing between Myanmar and Thailand suspended to prevent spread

The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) is now using the ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation) artificial lung to treat a COVID-19 coronavirus patient who is in critical condition at Nonthaburi’s Bamrasnaradura Infectious Disease Institute (BIDI), MOPH permanent secretary Dr Sukhum Kanchanapimai told the press briefing on Friday.

Sukhum explained that the patient in question had suffered acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) since admission to the BIDI. This patient has been on the ECMO artificial lung since February 12 and is now stable.

The number of confirmed infections in Thailand as of 8am Friday remained steady at 33,  20 of whom were being treated in medical facilities’ isolation rooms. Thirteen had already  recovered and been discharged, he said. Thailand is now ranked fifth in the countries with the most COVID-19 infections after China, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, he noted.

The cumulative number of “patients under investigation” was corrected to 777 – with 117 still in hospital and 660 found to be mainly suffering from flu and released on condition they have medical follow-up.

Globally as of 7am on Friday, there were 65,246 infections and 1,487 fatalities, with 64,658 infections and 1,484 deaths in all regions of China, the ministry reported.

Sukhum also addressed the concern about the screening for COVID-19 in Chinese nationals who crossed the Thai-Myanmar border at the Kokko natural border crossing point in Tak’s Mae Sot district, explaining that this crossing had now been suspended and that everyone was required to use the Mae Sot border checkpoint which is equipped with disease control screening measures.

As for the Holland America Line cruise ship Westerdam, which found a berth in Cambodia on Thursday after being turned away by Thailand, Sukhum said the ministry has already received the list of passengers and coordinated with the Immigration Bureau and disease control checkpoints to strictly screen travellers from Cambodia during this period. Anyone with suspected symptoms was immediately passed to the disease surveillance system.

Thailand’s thermo screening at Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Krabi and Chiang Rai airports so far had scanned arrivals on 799 flights covering 64,357 passengers and crew members while five ports (Bangkok, Laem Chabang, Chiang Saen, Phuket and Samui) scanned 44,200 people and border checkpoints 387,148 travellers.

Photo Credit: Ministry of Public Health

The ministry once again urged members of the Thai public to adopt the basic precautions of frequent hand washing and wearing facemasks when going to crowded places. It was stressed that those coughing and sneezing should wear surgical single-use masks while those in good health can wear cloth masks, an economical and sufficiently protective choice, while the N95-grade facemasks were for health officials taking close care of patients.

On the occasion of Valentine’s Day, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul presented cloth facemasks to the media attending the briefing and urged them to disseminate information on correct mask use to the  public.

On the issue of combatting fake news on COVID-19, Digital Economy and Society Minister Puttipong Punnakanta provided an update on his  Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BeePunnakanta/) on Thursday, noting that in addition to successfully seeking help from social media giants Facebook last week, he had also sought assistance from Line, the most popular social media among Thais with 50 million accounts.

Photo Credit: www.facebook.com/BeePunnakanta/

He said Line Today already opened a new section dedicated to COVID-19 situation updates from allied news agencies and from the Digital Economy and Society Ministry or the Ministry of Public Health’s Department of Disease Control. Line also expressed willingness to let the Thai authorities use the Computer Act to remove fake news content if any was reported, he added.

Line and MCOT also joined forces to create a platform that would serve as a credible news source regarding the updated number of infections and deaths, he said.

The minister noted the DDC would provide accurate and credible information on the virus situation and that the public  could use the hashtag #ชัวร์ก่อนแชร์ to check accuracy on virus content, he added.

The minister also urged all concerned agencies to join an upcoming seminar to brainstorm on possible adjustments to related laws to catch up with online social media violators including fake news, pornographic materials, gambling websites, e-commerce of illegal goods.

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