Government to conduct more tests in bid to halt Omicron

The government plans to conduct more proactive Covid testing to halt the spread of Omicron, the government said on Monday in a scheduled press conference.

A spokesman also added that people with mild Covid symptoms should do home isolation instead of burdening the health system.

“Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha instructed all related agencies, especially healthcare, to prepare for the continuous increase of Covid-19 cases because of the Omicron variant,” said Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, the government spokesman.

“We will conduct proactive tests in order to isolate patients from the general population as much as possible,” he said.

Thailand reported 7,926 cases on Monday compared to around 3,000-3,500 cases in mid-December. The first case of Omicron in the country was discovered in late November.

Only 285 cases were found via proactive tests at known clusters compared to 7,229 that were found via walk-in tests at medical facilities on Monday. The remaining 412 were imported cases.

The government is preparing more hospital beds via the reopening of field hospitals for severe cases and community isolation centres for people with mild symptoms.

Despite the sharp increase in the number of cases, the death rate was low compared to the outbreaks of previous variants with 13 fatalities on Monday compared to 64 fatalities on October 29 when the country reported 8,968 cases.

Thanakorn said a free testing centre was set up at the Government Complex in Chaengwattana and people who tested positive will either enter home isolation (HI) or community isolation (CI) programs, depending on whether their private accommodation is suitable for HI or not.

The government also instructed the ministry of commerce to control the price of ATK tests to prevent stores from increasing their prices, Thanakorn said.

Similar to previous waves, volunteer groups and infected people are criticising the government’s HI program for lack of healthcare support and medical equipment.

Many people were isolated at home with no telemedicine, no medicine and no extra support in terms of sanitary equipment, food and water.

“Covid infected people who enter home isolation will be taken care of. Their condition will be monitored, medicine delivery, food delivery and medical equipment such as digital thermometer and oximeter,” Thanakorn said.

“In cases which needed, they will be given chest x-rays and RT-PCR tests until they are recovered or sent to a hospital if their medical condition changes,” he said.  

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