TUESDAY, April 16, 2024

NCDC okays measures, time frame for transition period of Covid becoming endemic

NCDC okays measures, time frame for transition period of Covid becoming endemic

The National Communicable Disease Committee (NCDC) on Wednesday approved measures for dealing with Covid-19 during a four-month transitional period before it is declared an endemic disease.

The measures were approved during a NCDC meeting at the Public Health Ministry chaired by Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul.

Anutin said several countries are now making preparations for treating Covid-19 as an endemic disease but Thailand’s measures are aimed at striking a balance of protecting public health while driving the economy on the road to recovery.

At the end of the transitional period, no more Covid tests will be required and all nightlife entertainment places will be allowed to operate as usual.

Anutin said that during the transitional period, the government will still retain preventive and disease-tracking measures, vaccinations and legal measures that will change according to the situation.

During the four-month transitional period, the Public Health Ministry will focus on the factors for considering whether Covid-19 has reached endemic status, Anutin said.

He explained that the ministry would consider the reproduction rate of the virus and the death rate in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s standard that says an endemic disease must see a death rate no higher than one in 1,000.

Other factors are people’s access to medicine, Anutin said.

He said the meeting asked the Disease Control Department to analyse Covid-19-related deaths to find out the exact causes.

He said the department was also asked to consider how to adjust social measures once the Covid-19 emergency is abolished.

The Public Health Ministry will also speed up vaccinations of people in risk groups and for some 2 million elderly people who have not been inoculated. Those who have not received a booster dose will also be advised to get one before the Songkran holidays, Anutin added.

Ministry permanent secretary Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit said after the NCDC meeting that the number of new Covid infections was expected to decrease to some 1,000 to 2,000 a day in late June and the public health system would be able to cope with them.

Kiattiphum said the four-month transitional period is divided into four phases.

The first phase begins from March 12 to early April and is regarded as an upward trend of the pandemic, in which the ministry will retain strict control measures.

During the first period, travellers from abroad will be required to undergo a RT-PCR test on the first day of their arrival and an antigen test on the fifth day. Those who have not been vaccinated will be quarantined for 10 days.

The second phase, from April to May, is expected to see a spread rate that is still high, and foreign travellers will be required to have antigen tests on the first and fifth days of their arrival. Unvaccinated tourists will be required to quarantine for five days.

The third phase, to start from late May to June, is expected to be a time when new infections slow down. Unvaccinated tourists will be required to undergo an antigen test at the airport, Kiattiphum said.

In the fourth or last phase starting from June 30, Covid-19 is expected to become endemic and foreign travellers will no longer be required to undergo any tests, he added.

During the first and second phases, the ministry would retain strict measures for tracing Covid to prevent it spreading among large groups of people.

During the third and final phases, the ministry aims to focus on checking for people who develop severe symptoms to prevent deaths.

Kiattiphum added that during the first and second phases, risky venues such as pubs and bars would still be closed, but be allowed to resume business in the third phase.