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Public Health Minister heads south to deal with Covid

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul is heading to the far South this week to direct measures addressing the rapid spread of Covid-19 pandemic in the region.

Mr Anutin said yesterday he is travelling to Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat to see for himself the severity of the pandemic.

The public health minister said he needed to see for himself what is driving up transmissions in the region and from that see what can be best done to address it.

Covid-19 daily caseloads in Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and Songkhla now make up 20% of nationwide daily infections, according to the Department of Disease Control (DDC).

The number of people who have had double doses ranges between 21-30% of the population in their respective provinces.

On average, 2,300 Covid-19 new cases per day are in the far South.

If the number could be brought down, the nationwide daily infections would dip below 10,000, Mr Anutin said.

Mr Anutin said he is scheduled to meet local and religious leaders and will ask them to convince more people to get vaccinated which can reduce the severity of infection.

The ministry has no plan to move the patients out of the provinces and risk transmitting the virus elsewhere, Mr Anutin said.

There are enough beds and medical workers in the region plus the antiviral drug Favipiravir which are being dispensed to mild-symptom Covid-19 patients.

He added backup medical resources and personnel are made available by major hospitals in nearby Hat Yai district of Songkhla and Nakhon Si Thammarat.

The DDC has sent 500,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine to the far South, he said, adding he has instructed local health authorities to expedite the vaccination.

“At the very least, the vaccine jabs will make it easier to contain the virus,” he said, drawing a comparison to Bangkok where infections have levelled off now that 70% of the population has been double-dosed.

Community isolation facilities will soon be up and running in each tambon of the southernmost provinces.

Many residents there live in extended families and at-risk individuals need to be moved away and placed in the facilities to short-circuit the infections.

Mr Anutin added the ministry is fully prepared to handle rising infections anywhere in the country.

According to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), the 10 most infected provinces yesterday were; Bangkok (1,160 cases), Yala (719), Pattani (547), Samut Prakan (532), Songkhla (505), Chon Buri (473), Nakhon Si Thammarat (473), Narathiwat (414), Rayong (378), and Chanthaburi (279).

Also yesterday, the Rural Doctors Society warned that transmission in some areas, particularly the far South, was on the upswing again.

The society indicated unconfirmed test results could push up the number of Covid-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the CCSA assistant spokeswoman Apisamai Srirungson said some vaccines remained unused in the southernmost provinces while adding that local health authorities should improve on their vaccine distribution and related planning efforts.

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