Doctors issue Stage-3 warning

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An association of chest physicians is calling on the government to prepare for Covid-19 to become a “Stage 3”, full-blown epidemic in Thailand while slamming the authorities’ slow response to the spread of the disease.

The Thoracic Society of Thailand issued an emotionally charged statement warning that the country might not be equipped to deal with a drastic escalation in the number of cases. This week’s rise in the number of cases, particularly those attributed to local transmission, indicates that the country is beginning to enter Stage 3, according to the statement.

The society said it has been trying to alert agencies involved of the need for preparations. “And though there is a degree of response, this is still not enough to deal with this major health crisis,” according to the official statement. In Stage 3 — the highest of an outbreak, all state and private hospitals must identify all patients with severe Covid-19 infections and isolate them in hospitals for treatment to cut the rate of transmission, the society said. The society also took aim at government agencies responsible for combating the virus: “The virus outbreak has shown that state mechanisms designed to respond to national crises are always one step behind.

Meanwhile, Tares Krassanairawiwong, director-general of the Health Service Support Department, said that the department had issued an order, effective from March 5, prohibiting private hospitals from turning away emergency cases of Covid-19 infection. If it is necessary to refer patients to other hospitals, they must ensure referrals are arranged properly and must not let patients travel to seek treatment elsewhere themselves, Dr Tares said. However, the agency quoted the report urging that social distancing, particularly a ban on mass gatherings, must be implemented in eight high-risk provinces, including Bangkok, this month.

 If no proactive measures are put in place, the report warned that infections may reach a point where they could no longer be controlled and the number of infected patients would rise quickly and could reach 2,250 by May, according to projections included in the report.

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