Realizing that Covid-19 can become an endemic pathogen, many countries, including Thailand and Indonesia, are preparing plans to “live with Covid-19”, focusing on easing restrictions and boosting vaccination.
Thailand is in the process of preparing to “live with Covid-19”, with plans to ease some restrictions and open borders to vaccinated travelers.
According to Opas Karnkawinpong, Director General of the Department of Disease Control, on August 30, the National Communicable Diseases Committee approved a change of strategy, moving into the phase of “learning to live with Covid-19”.
The future focus is on preventing the number of infections from exceeding the health system’s capacity to cope. The main measure is to vaccinate vulnerable groups, and quickly track cases, assuming that all people can contract and transmit the disease, Mr. Karnkawinpong said.
The preliminary proposal includes easing some restrictions next month, such as shopping malls, barbershops, beauty salons, massage parlors and sports clubs in 29 high-risk provinces will be allowed to operate. reopening, while restaurants can open their doors to diners. In addition, the country will replicate the model of opening tourism in October, previously applied as a pilot with Phuket.
Thailand used to be a story of success against the epidemic in the early stages. The country has reported relatively few infections, despite being the first country after China to record people with Covid-19. The initial victory allowed the government to secure vaccine contracts and boost vaccinations. However, some flaws in the implementation program led to a shortage of supply when the Delta variant appeared. As a result, the number of infections has increased continuously since April until now.
But the latest data on positive cases, test results, patients being treated and patterns of spread show that the epidemic has peaked, according to health officials. This allows Thailand to relax some restrictions. The country on August 30 reported more than 17,400 new cases, the lowest daily increase since July 30, compared with an average of 20,000 for the whole month.
Currently, provinces, home to 40% of the population, generating more than three-quarters of gross domestic product (GDP), are under strict restrictions. The government closed all non-essential businesses, restricted travel between provinces, and only allowed people to leave their homes from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“The cautious reopening is earlier than we expected. If successful, economic activities should return quickly and boost GDP this year,” said Burin Adulwattana, chief economist at Bangkok Bank Pcl. determined.
The country’s shift in strategy mirrors a speech in June by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha. At the time, he said the rest of the country would be reopened in October to “reduce the loss to people who lost their income”. He called this “calculated risk” and asked people “willing to live with some risk”.
To date, Thailand has injected more than 30.9 million doses of the vaccine, with about 10.6% of the population of 69 million having received the full dose. On August 30, government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchan said the country is expected to buy 140 million doses of vaccines by the end of this year. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also directed the Ministry of Health to buy more vaccines for children aged 12-18 to prepare for the safe opening of schools.
Vaccination rates are higher in areas that have reopened under special tourism programs, including Phuket Island, and areas where outbreaks have been strong, such as Bangkok. According to Karnkawinpong, Phuket’s reopening on July 1 shows that if the situation is controlled, it is still possible to boost economic activity and create conditions for people to live a normal life.
Last week, the government announced a plan to issue a “Thai Covid Pass” (Thailand Covid-19 passport) to people who have been vaccinated. This will be the passport at some locations such as restaurants.
Although still recording new infections, many areas of Indonesia, such as the city of Solo in Central Java and Malang in East Java, eased restrictions since August 31. Last week, authorities did this with Greater Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and several other areas.
Places of worship are allowed to reopen with a capacity of 25% or up to 30 people. Similarly, restaurants can receive 25% of the maximum number of diners. The mall operates at half capacity.
On August 30, President Joko Widodo said the positive rate had decreased, the hospital bed occupancy rate also decreased to 27%. He urged Indonesians to remain vigilant, noting that many countries face a new wave of Covid-19 despite impressive vaccination rates.
“We need to work together to prevent the number of nCoV infections from increasing again. The simple recipe is vaccination and disciplined health regulation,” said Mr. Widodo.
Luhut Pandjaitan, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Affairs, said the number of infections nationwide had dropped by 90.4 per cent since July 15. The situation is brighter in the densely populated islands of Java and Bali. The number of new cases decreased by 94%.
“The anti-Covid-19 situation has improved, health regulations have been implemented, and people are using the tracing app PeduliLindungi, the community has adjusted its activities,” he said in an online meeting on April 30. /8.
The PeduliLindungi application displays vaccination certificates and disease situation in the area around the user. This is part of the social distancing campaign. All companies and factories are allowed to operate if employees are divided into shifts, reporting via the PeduliLindungi application and taking some other measures.
Indonesia, the Southeast Asian country hardest hit by Covid-19, recorded more than 5,400 new infections on August 30, bringing the total number of infections to 4.98 million.
Thuc Linh (Follow Bloomberg, Straits Times)