Back with a splash! Songkran to test Thailand’s Covid-19 defences

The festival is a concern since it will see tourists and Thais partying and water-fighting with few restrictions for the first time in three years.

The Nation

The Nation



March 1, 2023

BANGKOKThai hospitals and community health centres have been ordered to prepare for a spike in Covid-19 infections over Songkran in April and schools reopening in June.

Hospitals have admitted 204 Covid-19 cases in the past week (February 19-25), 66 of whom were suffering severe symptoms, said Public Health permanent-secretary Opas Karnkawinpong on Monday.

Nine patients died of Covid-19 in the past week, all of them belonging to at-risk groups (over 60 and/or with chronic conditions).

Opas said the number of infections is expected to rise during the Songkran festival in April and again in June, when schools open for the first semester.

Songkran is a concern since the festival will see foreign tourists and Thais partying and water-fighting with few restrictions for the first time in three years.

Hence, the Public Health Ministry has ordered hospitals and clinics to raise monitoring and disease control measures during the danger periods.

Opas advised people to wear face masks in public and while interacting with those in at-risk groups. People who have not been vaccinated for several months should get booster shots, he added. The ministry also advised people to wash hands regularly and test themselves if they experience Covid-19 symptoms.

Opas said the ministry has also instructed health offices in border provinces to monitor the bird flu outbreak in Cambodia and tighten health screening of travellers at border checkpoints.

Those who have visited outbreak zones or come into contact with bird flu patients in the past 14 days must undergo tests at hospitals, he added.

He also told poultry farmers to report to authorities if their animals die en masse for no clear reason, and avoid eating their meat if not properly cooked.

On Sunday, the World Health Organisation reported that the outbreak of H5N1 (bird flu virus) is still at a low level, despite the death of an 11-year-old girl in Cambodia last week. The girl and her father caught the virus after direct contact with infected animals, it said.

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