The island province of Phuket has experienced a significant increase in Covid-19 infections over the past month, according to the Provincial Public Health Office. Deputy Chief Dr. Muanprae Boonlorm cites the prevalence of cases treated at Vachira Phuket Hospital following the Songkran holiday in mid-April as a major contributor to this surge. Furthermore, the number of hospitalizations for pneumonia and Covid-19-related fatalities have risen compared to the February to March period.
Dr. Muanprae suggests that this surge in cases is likely due to the populace’s complacency regarding preventative measures and a lack of fourth or fifth booster shots. Many of those who have succumbed to the infection between April and the present month were part of the “608” at-risk group, which includes individuals aged 60 and older, those with underlying conditions, and pregnant women. A large portion of this group was found to be either unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, with some having received their last booster shots over a year ago.
Despite the concerning rise in infections, Dr. Muanprae is confident that the province has the capacity to manage Covid-19 hospitalizations. He notes that only 15-20% of beds in Covid-19-specific wards are currently occupied. He also encourages Thais who have not received a booster shot within the last six months to one year to obtain their injections for free at any local hospital. However, he advises checking the vaccination availability at specific hospitals, as some may only offer the service once a week.
In a related development, the Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the value of herbal medicine in the public health system, according to Thongchai Lertwilairattanapong, director-general of the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine (DTAM). Speaking at a workshop promoting traditional medicine, Thongchai revealed that the value of herbal medicine used in 2021 reached 5.2 billion baht, tripling the figure from the previous year. The significant increase is attributed to more people seeking traditional medicine for Covid-19 treatment.
As the situation in Phuket and elsewhere in Thailand evolves, it is crucial for residents and travelers alike to remain vigilant with preventative measures and pursue appropriate vaccinations to help curb the spread of Covid-19. Simultaneously, embracing alternative forms of treatment, such as traditional medicine, can bolster the overall public health response and provide additional relief to those affected by the virus.