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Fears Songkran Holiday Will Be a Covid-19 Super Spreader Event

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In Thailand, the Ministry of Public Health has predicted an increase of 50,000 daily Covid-19 cases by the end of the Songkran holiday.

In light of the fact that the government is wanting to declare COVID-19 an “endemic” disease, by the end of June, this admission is all the more damning according to WSWS.org.

It is estimated that 3,000 people suffer from lung inflammation each day, 900 of whom require ventilation and 150 of whom will die from Covid-19. According to the report, if health precautions are only applied sparingly, these numbers could almost double.

The Songkran festival, which marks the Thai New Year, increases the risk of COVID-19 spreading as thousands of people travel and attend social gatherings. Unvaccinated groups of the population, such as the elderly and children, are particularly vulnerable.

Low COVID-19 Vaccination Rate

Dr. Sumanee Wacharasint, director of the Bureau of Risk Communication and Health Behaviour Development, reported last Wednesday that only 34.6% of the population had received a Covid-19 booster shot. This included 37.2% of the elderly.

Less than 50 percent of children aged 5-11 received their first vaccine dose and fewer than 2 percent received their second.

Samut Prakan, Nonthaburi, Maha Sarakham, Nan Province, Phuket, Lamphun, and Chainat are the only provinces to achieve the 70 percent target for booster shots for the elderly.

Thailand’s Royal College of Physicians, Thai Society of Critical Care Medicine, Thai Thoracic Society, and Infectious Disease Association are all urging the public to get booster shots to prevent an increase in infections.

The government is acting in the opposite way. By announcing the implementation by July of the unscientific program of declaring Covid-19 endemic as well as the lifting of COVID public health restrictions, it is deluding the public into a false sense of security.

Thailand is a Very High-Risk Country

There were 26,081 Covid-19 cases and 91 deaths reported last Thursday morning, setting an all-time high for daily cases. Worldometer ranks Thailand 10th in terms of cases, while US Center for Disease Control (CDC) considers it a “very high” risk country.

In general, the number of deaths and cases each day is greatly underestimated, as is the case internationally. When one counts RAT results that are left out of official counts, cases are already approaching 50,000 covid-19 cases a day. According to the Public Health Ministry, there were 24,892 cases on April 3, but there were also 15,972 positive RAT results, making the total 40,864.

The Rural Doctor Society (RDS) reported that positive RAT results found by the organization in just three provinces on March 30 were higher than the official number of RAT-detected infections nationwide.

In Thailand, the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) reported 16,079 confirmed RAT cases. However, RDS determined that the total number of cases in Chon Buri, Songkla, and Change Rai was 16,484 — 8,323, 4,839, and 3,322 respectively.

Getting Economy Back on Track

In a Facebook statement, the RDS stated, “We are working hard as the front-line healthcare workers to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus.”.

However, it continued, “trying to come up with an ideal figure just isn’t a good idea… Reporting the actual number of new infections will instead raise public awareness about the outbreak.”

In the same vein as its counterparts overseas, Thailand’s military-backed regime is eager to revive the economy and boost profits.

Based on improvement in the global pandemic situation after the Delta outbreak last year, the Finance Ministry projected economic growth of 3.5–4.5 percent for 2022. The rosy outlook implied that the Omicron variant was mild and would usher in a return to normality.

Thailand has now been hit by an Omicron wave that has been causing increasing deaths and infections. The arrival of variants has revealed new threats, such as the recent Omicron XE, first seen in Britain in January.

The UK Health Services Agency (UKHSA) reports that Covid-19 Omicron XE is 10 percent more transmissible than BA.2 and 43 percent more transmissible than the original Omicron (B.1.1.529).

Declaring Covid-19 Endemic

The government desperately wants to revive its flagging tourism industry, which accounted for 20 percent of GDP before the pandemic. As a result, only 427,000 foreigners visited Thailand in 2021, compared to a regular annual average of 40 million.

In April, the government abolished the requirement for international travelers to have PCR tests before departure. There were discussions Friday about replacing PCR tests for arrivals with Rapid Antigen (RAT) tests and instituting shorter quarantine periods.

The CCSA announced that it would postpone such measures until May, pending the outcome of the Songkran festival.

US-NATO’s war against Russia in Ukraine has exacerbated the economic crisis, which has led to higher energy and food prices. In addition to its trade and account deficits, the country’s manufacturing sector faces increasing operating costs being a net importer of oil.

Slow Economic Growth

According to the central bank, the official inflation rate rose to 5.28 percent in February, its highest level in 13 years and well outside the bank’s 3 percent target. In an attempt to save the economy, the central bank has maintained its key interest rate at a historic low of 0.5 percent.

Meanwhile, the value of the national currency, the baht, is falling as international investors flock to the US dollar.

Estimates of growth from the government are now being questioned. According to Kasikorn Research Center (K-Research), its growth projection has been lowered from 3.7 percent to 2.5 percent. According to the World Bank, the country’s annual growth rate has also been revised to 2.9 percent.

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