The Ministry of Public Health has raised Thailand’s COVID-19 alert to Level 3 amid rising Omicron coronavirus infections, while warning that new daily cases could reach as high as 30,000 in early 2022 unless strict measures are taken to curb the spread.
Dr Kiattiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary to the Ministry of Public Health, said at a press briefing that the ministry resolved to raise the Kingdom’s alert level after new Omicron cases surged from 104 last Wednesday (Dec 22) to 514 on Monday (Dec 27).
The ministry has also calculated three possible epidemiological scenarios for the COVID-19 situation next year.
For the best-case scenario, Dr Kiattiphum said the number of new daily infections could average around 10,000 as early as late January.
The second-best scenario, which calls for a moderate level of control, would see 15,000-16,000 new daily cases over roughly the same period.
For the worst-case scenario, in which no additional precautions are taken against the highly transmissible variant, the number of new daily cases would reach as high as 30,000.
Dr. Kiattiphum said the fatality rate would increase to 170-180 daily deaths in the worst-case scenario. However, that figure could fall to around 60-70 daily deaths given more stringent measures and accelerated vaccine rollouts.
Projections provided at the briefing showed daily Omicron cases peaking in late January or early February in the best and second-best scenarios, with the outbreak being brought under control within 1-2 months.
For the worst-case scenario, new cases would peak in early March before seeing a decline, with health authorities taking 3-4 months to bring the situation under control.
The permanent secretary also noted that while the ministry did not expect the fatality rate to be as high as for the Delta variant, the highly infectious nature of the Omicron strain meant vulnerable groups should quickly get vaccinated.
Of the 514 confirmed Omicron cases in Thailand, around 90% were asymptomatic or exhibited mild symptoms.
Dr Kiattiphum also assured that there would be sufficient beds and medical supplies to deal with new infections, with 170,000 hospital beds and 15 million favipiravir pills currently available.
Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, di rector-general of the Department of Disease Control (DDC), meanwhile said the alert was raised to Level 3 in order to enable authorities to step up prevention, detection and control efforts.
He added that air conditioned restaurants must ensure their staff are fully vaccinated and take regular antigen tests, while cautioning that the New Year period is likely to see a rise in new cases due to the increased movement of people during the holidays.
Dr Opas also advised offices to maintain work-from-home approaches to limit the spread of infection.