Falling Covid rates abroad likely NOT due to vaccines, but to more masks and lockdowns, government says

The falling Covid-19 infection rates in the United States and elsewhere might well have more to do with increased mask-wearing rather than vaccinations, Thai authorities said Tuesday. The government has been fending off criticism for its own vaccination plan, which relies mostly on developing capacity for domestic production and has not yet seen any inoculations.

The Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) questioned whether the rollout of vaccination programmes could be credited with the drop in infection rates in the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Brazil and Russia since September.

“Could it be because of vaccines?” CCSA spokesman Dr Taweesin Visanuyothin asked rhetorically. “Many people said that it is too soon and it might be the results of the prevention measures in each country instead.”

The opposition and pro-democracy protesters have said the government’s approach is causing unnecessarily delays in rolling out vaccinations for Thais, and prolonging the pandemic in the country.

Taweesin said the request by the new US president for citizens to wear face masks now could be contributing to the drop in cases there. He also said that lockdowns and curfews in those countries could also be contributing more than the vaccines.

“The results from vaccines should be more apparent in the coming period but not now,” he added.

So far, more than 134 million doses have been administered across 73 countries, according to financial news agency Bloomberg.

In the US, more than 43.1 million doses have been administered and Bloomberg said there are now more Americans who have received at least one dose of the vaccines than have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began.

Thailand has yet to inoculate anyone, while the government is defending its plan by saying that the country’s low rates mean it can afford to wait for better and cheaper vaccines instead of allowing its citizens to be “lab rats.”

Daily numbers still low

The CCSA reported on Tuesday that it had found 189 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

It is the second day that the daily number of confirmed cases is below 200 since 25 January, when the number of cases being found via increased efforts to conduct proactive tests at high-risk factories and communities in Samut Sakhon and nearby districts of Bangkok was first reported.

“We can feel a bit of a relieved now but we cannot completely trust the situation yet because we are still finding cases,” Taweesin said.

Of Tuesday’s latest cases, 179 were local infections and 10 were found in quarantine facilities.

Of the 179 local infections, 123 were found via tests at medical facilities and 56 via proactive tests at high-risk factories and communities, mostly in Samut Sakhon, where the second wave began, and the districts of Bangkok that are next to Samut Sakhon.

This brings the total number of infections since the pandemic began last year to 23,746 cases. While 18,366 people have recovered from the disease, 6,068 patients are still being treated.

There was no new fatality, leaving the death toll at 79 people.

The second wave of the outbreak has led to 19,509 confirmed cases and 19 deaths since December 15. Of the total confirmed cases that were found during the second wave, 80 per cent were found in Samut Sakhon alone.

Clusters and provinces

The second wave of the outbreak has reached 63 out of the 77 provinces in Thailand so far.

The number of provinces that are still reporting cases have dropped from 24 provinces during 17 January and 23 January down to 16 provinces between 31 January and 6 February and 8 provinces so far this week (7 February – 9 February).  

The hardest-hit province continues to be Samut Sakhon, which reported 15,054 confirmed cases between December 18 and February 9.

This was followed by Bangkok (872), Chonburi (649), Rayong (580), Samut Prakan (361), Chanthaburi (221), Nonthaburi (168) Ang Thong (113), Pathumthani (91) and Nakhon Pathom (79).

Of the 179 local infections reported on Tuesday, 159 were found in Samut Sakhon, followed by nine in Bangkok, six in Samut Songkhram, three in Phetchaburi and two in Nonthaburi.

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