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COVID-19 to be declared dangerous communicable disease

Authorities say adding it to list will help control spread as situation predicted to worsen over next two months

The Ministry of Public Health is proposing that the National Committee for Emerging Infectious Diseases declare COVID-19 a new addition to the country’s official list of dangerous communicable diseases during the upcoming meeting on February 24. Such a declaration would allow the authorities to take legal action against anyone  resisting the authorities’ disease control measures and hence rein in the virus situation which is predicted to worsen over the next two months.

Following the national committee’s meeting on Thursday, Public Health Ministry Permanent-Secretary Dr Sukhum Karnchanapimai said Thailand is currently in the second stage, the phase where residents become infected due to close contact with visitors from virus-hit locales. There was thus a need for the Kingdom to be prepared for the third stage, when the virus would spread wider, with residents who have not travelled to China and have not had direct contact with anyone from China or other virus-hit locales, becoming infected.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha presides over the National Committee for Emerging Infectious Diseases meeting on Thursday. Photo Credit: www.thaigov.go.th/

Noting that the virus situation may be “worrisome” in next two months, Dr Sopon Iamsirithawon, head of the Disease Control Department’s Communicable Disease Division, said the academic committee last week resolved to propose that COVID-19  be added to the list of dangerous communicable diseases. He said this matter would be tabled during the February 24 meeting for approval by the National Committee for Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is likely to agree.

Once it is declared a dangerous communicable disease, officials can enforce the law against those refusing to co-operate or adhere to officials’ advice on disease control,  as seen in Singapore where a regulation has been imposed putting returnees from certain countries under a 14-day house quarantine, he explained.

Thailand’s official list of dangerous communicable diseases currently features 13 diseases namely Plague, Smallpox, Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever, Lassa Virus, Nipah Virus, Marburg Virus, Ebola, Hendra Disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Extensively Drug-resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB).

Photo Credit: Ministry of Public Health

Meanwhile Dr Thanarak Palitpat, deputy chief of the Department of Disease Control, said during the daily briefing on Friday (February 21) that the number of confirmed cases in Thailand was unchanged at 35, of whom 19 had fully recovered and been discharged. Out of the 16 who remained under treatment in isolation rooms at medical facilities, two cases were critically ill but stable.

“We now have a total of 1,151 cases of patients under investigation – with 99 cases reported from yesterday. The increasing number of PUI is due to the expansion of affected countries we put under surveillance for the incoming travellers and the expansion of case definition to include any patient who has a typical pneumonia in eight provinces – Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi, Phuket, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Bangkok, Samut Prakan and Chon Buri,” Thanarak said. Of the 1,151 PUI cases, the majority of which were diagnosed with flu,  941 had recovered and been released whilst 210 were still being treated.

The Department of Medical Sciences’ (DMS) director-general Dr Opas Karnkavinpong said his agency had brought virus samples from the country’s first two confirmed patients to develop a real time or RT-PCR test kit to detect COVID-19 virus and a vaccine and had also shared the samples with the World Health Organisation to extend benefits to global citizens. The department has also developed a network of labs in 14 provinces, which could be extended to cover a centre or general hospital in each province to prepare for an outbreak.

Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicines (DTAM) deputy director-general Dr Pramote Sathianrat said that DTAM, DMS, and the Government Pharmaceutical Organization would on February 25 sign a Memorandum of Understanding for a study on the effectiveness of “Fa Ta Lai Jone” Andrographis paniculata extract and other herbal extracts on fighting COVID-19 virus.

He said “Fa Ta Lai Jone” extract was already known for its broad-spectrum antiviral property and was  used in treating upper respiratory tract infections.

Globally as of 7am on Friday, there were 76,202 infections and 2,247 fatalities, with 75,000 infections and 2,236 deaths in all regions of China, the ministry reported.

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