‘New Normal’ likely as calls for easing of restrictions grow

Calls for easing the current restrictions are louder following the sharp decline of new Coronavirus cases, but the government is taking a cautious step with readiness to introduce the so-called ‘New Normal’ lifestyle

The government’s Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has reiterated WHO’s call for careful consideration before easing restrictions presently in place against the Coronavirus.

The global public health agency, World Health Organization (WHO), made the recommendations and the call on countries to take careful consideration last week after it had learned that some countries were planning to exit their lockdown strategies, apparently referring to the US as its President Donald Trump had made a public announcement over the issue.

Easing rules too fast is feared that it would allow the virus to resurge and hit countries hard again and the WHO earlier said countries would likely not be able to stand to see their economies on and off as a result of the virus outbreaks as well as strict measures to suppress them.

So, easing restrictions that help control the Coronavirus Disease needs to be pursued carefully as such.

There have been no certain criteria available to help ensure the safe exit yet, but the WHO has offered at least six factors to accompany the governments’ considerations.

“WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone. At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly,” said WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus before the world passed 2 million cases on Wednesday.

The six factors recommended include;
*Transmission is controlled.
*Sufficient public health and medical services are available.
*Outbreak risks in special settings like long-term care facilities are minimized.
*Preventive measures are in place in workplaces, schools, and other places where it’s essential for people to go.
*Importation risks can be managed.
*Communities are fully aware and engaged in the transition.

On Thursday, which was the 14th Day of the curfew enforcement, the center’s spokesperson Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin revealed the government’s plan to ease some restrictions, but reiterated the WHO’s call, citing the six factors Thai society needed to take into account too.

He said the new “exit strategy” committee has been appointed to explore the possibility and it would likely be placed for consideration next week, while not disclosing to what extent the easing of the restrictions can be done.

He just cited the WHO’s six factors.

Thailand’s situation as of April 16, 2 weeks after the curfew was first imposed.
Credit: CCSA

The consideration came as Thailand has seen a downward trend of new confirmed cases, which have fallen consecutively below 100 each day following the enforcement of the curfew and other strict physical distancing measures.

But this has come with some downsides especially on the local economy, so it has prompted some calls for the easing of the restrictions.

Dr.Taweesin said considering the number of new cases, Thailand has managed to put the situation under control to some extent, but this needs further monitoring and the number of new cases should drop to zero.

“Critically, we may have to live with a so-called ‘New Normal’, meaning living with what we have adjusted to as normal, including mask wearing, hand-washing, and physical distancing almost all of the time,” said Dr.Taweesin.

For instance, barber shops or department stores need to come up with certain preventive measures to ensure public safety from the virus as pre-conditions of their reopening, he said.

Dr. Prasit Wattanapa, dean of Siriraj Hospital’s Faculty of Medicine, one of the country’s top hospitals monitoring the country’s progress in solving the outbreak, cautioned if the country would consider easing all the restrictions.

Based on one-month monitoring on the outbreak trend since the cases hit 100 in mid March, Dr. Prasit said the number of new cases in the country has declined, suggesting effectiveness of the social measures being implemented.

However, the country should not be satisfied yet and quickly ease the restrictions in place, given experiences of other countries like Singapore or Japan that had lifted their restrictions immediately following the decline of cases and then saw the outbreak resurged, the professor said.

So, he suggested the government continue monitoring the outbreak trend further before making a decision and if that would be the case, easing the restrictions should be done gradually and for necessary businesses and activities only.

“We will pass this crisis with the least suffering if we are well disciplined, and that we would need no one to impose any orders upon us,” said Dr. Prasit.