Thailand approves move to declare Covid an endemic disease

Thailand will reopen its borders to vaccinated tourists so it can revive its economy

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 28 January 2022 13:08
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<p>A man wearing a face mask shops ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Bangkok, Thailand </p>

A man wearing a face mask shops ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations in Bangkok, Thailand

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 as an illness such as the flu or measles.

Health secretary Kiattiphum Wongrajit had said on Thursday that the ministry’s National Communicable Disease Committee planned to declare Covid endemic on its own academically acceptable criteria.

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 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 as saying by the Bangkok Post.

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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