Thailand will downgrade COVID-19 after successful response

Thailand is preparing to downgraded COVID-19 to the same level as influenza and dengue fever outbreaks because of its sustained and effective national response.  Infections are down and the country has fully reopened to the outside world.

The Ministry of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul said that it will remove COVID-19 from its classification as a “dangerous communicable disease,” the same level as smallpox and plague. It will be categorized as a disease that is “communicable [and] under surveillance.” The change will take place in October.

The coronavirus never reached the public health technical status of epidemic in the country, remaining at “outbreak” level, thanks to government policies and public cooperation.

Thailand’s response to COVID-19 has been praised by the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations, and numerous global public health monitoring and assessment groups. The campaign to contain COVID-19 owes a degree of its success to the Kingdom’s well-developed public health infrastructure and a network of over one million village health volunteers. The volunteers helped detect cases and provided information and basic medical services to their neighbors.

Minister Anutin added that the decision reflects the reality of the situation in the Kingdom. He cited Thailand’s health-system readiness, availability of treatments and “appropriate self-protection behavior” of people around the country, as the rationale for the change.

In addition, he said that the Ministry will soon start allowing private hospitals to directly procure antiviral drugs instead of going through government channels.

Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong of the Department of Disease Control said that the virus would be closely monitored to detect and stay ahead of any potentially dangerous mutations. COVID-19 has mutated several times since the first infection was discovered in 2020.

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