It’s that bustling time of year when Bangkok’s central terminal in the lively Chatuchak district is awash with people. The terminal, usually a canvas of calm, has been transformed into a sea of travelers. Tuesday was particularly notable, as the throngs of New Year celebrants, their festive spirits still intact, wove through the crowds, making their way back to work from their quaint home provinces. The air brimmed with stories of celebration, family, and feasts – the usual suspects in holiday gatherings. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)
Yet, amidst these warm reunions and departures lingers a sobering reminder: the stubborn adversary that is Covid-19 is flaring up again. Chulalongkorn University’s epidemiologist, Assoc Prof Thira Woratanarat, with a vigilant eye on the numbers, reports a disquieting 7% uptick in hospitalisations from the previous week. Turning the screw tighter, respiratory complaints linked to Covid-19 have spiked by 6.2% – the most significant leap in a four-month chapter.
But wait, there’s more to this unwelcome story. Patients struggling for breath, reaching out desperately for the lifeline of oxygen, have surged by 13.8%. The figures transform into a forecast, a numerical prophecy, with daily cases expected to pirouette within the band of 4,243 to 5,893 in the current week. It’s a number game nobody wants to win.
The camaraderie of the holidays might have been heart-warming, but it seems the return to the grind comes with a sinister hitchhiker. Assoc Prof Thira rings the alarm for those feeling under the weather post-festivities: keep an eagle eye on your health. Why? Because, in this covert game of hide-and-seek, Covid-19 may take up to 4-5 days post-exposure to reveal itself positively in a test. That’s right, the virus plays coy, lurking in plain sight.
During this precarious dance, it turns out that even those armoured with good intentions can unwittingly become vectors of viral dissemination. The simple (yet, perhaps underappreciated) armor of a face mask proves its mettle as an indispensable shield in public spaces.
The forecast isn’t exactly one of sunshine and rainbows in the weeks to come, with an upward trajectory in case count expected to hold court for another 4-6 weeks. The echo from Assoc Prof Thira resonates clear as day: the full spectrum of public health edicts is your best defense. Don your masks, wash those hands, and keep a respectful distance – a sort of choreography of caution.
Further afield in Nakhon Ratchasima, the situation echoes similar sentiments. Dr Suphon Tatiyananthaphon, Provincial health chief, has pinned a red flag on the district’s Covid-19 map. New cases are on the march, mirroring the mood post-New Year. There’s a somber readiness in the air, with hospitals bracing for the influx of those in need of care.
In yet another plot twist, Ramathibodi Hospital’s Centre for Medical Genomics has served up a slice of breaking news: the JN.1 subvariant of Omicron has set foot in Thailand, likely strutting towards the title of ‘main variant’. And so it seems, the microbial plot thickens, and the fight against Covid-19 continues to be an unpredictable saga.