An CCRT staff approaches at risk groups in complex settings in the city to try to get them into the medical services system. Credit: BMA

“Wuhan Model” in sight for Dark Red zone

The latest lockdown in the Dark Red zone, which takes effect today onwards, will be subject to review in the next seven days, with “Wuhan Model” being in sight, according to the government’s Covid-19 Situation Administration Center’s operations center chief

General Nattapon Nakpanich, secretary-general of the National Security Council and the CCSA’s operations chief, revealed to the press yesterday that concerned agencies have been assessing the situation of the Covid-19 outbreak and coming up with plans to deal with both negative and positive impacts of the latest lockdown, including the possible implementation of the “Wuhan Model”.

Gen Nattapon said the model is being studied and considered by the Public Health Ministry and the Disease Control Department, and if the time comes, the agencies in charge of the situation will pay heed to and follow what the public health agencies say. The CCSA, he added, is ready to deal with every scenario.

However, Gen Nattapon said to implement the full lockdown, the CCSA needed to take every factor into consideration, not just any particular factor, either an infection rate or the economy.

“Wuhan Model” comes at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak situation, under which the capital of Bangkok and its peripheries have been hit the hardest by the fourth wave spurred by the fast-spreading Delta variant. This situation has prompted the government to readjust its plan to cope with the virus. So far, the Dark Red zone, or the maximum strict and control zone has expanded to 13 provinces, where they will see the harsh measures in place for at least 14 days, and possibly the “Wuhan Model”.

The model is known to be an extreme measure that the Chinese government implemented in the early days of the infection in a bid to try to suppress the virus in Wuhan City, believed to be the source of the virus. (Read: The white paper “Fighting COVID-19: China in Action”)

According to the latest virus genetics monitoring results released by the Medical Sciences Department, the Delta variant has taken over the UK’s Alpha variant in the country already, with the infection rate studied on 3,340 infection samples over the past week having increased from 46.1% to 63.9%, compared to Alpha’s, which was reported at 32.7%. The Beta variant, meanwhile, was recorded at 3.4% of the infections.

In Bangkok, its share in infection cases was even higher, being recorded at 76.5%, increasing from 57.1% recorded during the week before. In upcountry, the variant’s infection rate is also inclining, with the rate recorded at 47.3%, compared with 45.7% of Alpha.

“From what we have tested, the Delta variant has taken over the Alpha variant completely,” said Dr. Supakit Sirilak, the department’s Director-General, adding this is the reason why the number of new daily infection cases at the moment is inclining steeply.

Dr. Supakit downplayed concerns that it could be more virulent, saying this observation has not yet been clearly reflected through cases. But its impact on severe illness and death could become more visible if a number of cases have overwhelmed the medical capacity.

So far, 72 provinces, Bangkok included, have been infected with the Delta variant, leaving only some four or five provinces uninfected.

The CCSA yesterday presented the scenarios by two organisations, Mahidol’s Environment and Natural Resources Studies Faculty and Krung Sri Research Center, which have projected a similar trend of infections that if nothing was done to curb the current spread of the virus, Thailand could see over 20,000 to 30,000 cases a day. The best-case scenario by the faculty has shown that even so, the country would still see almost 10,000, or 9,018 to 12,605 cases a day still, with the peak and a downward trend starting in the next few months, or around August or September.

“Even so, we will still touch 10,000 somehow,” said the CCSA’s spokesperson Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, who strongly urged the public to give “utmost cooperation” to the government in suppressing the virus this time.

The Public Health Ministry, meanwhile, has worked with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration in setting up the Comprehensive COVID-19 Response Team (CCR Team) to better access patients in the city, who can hardly access medical services due to their complicated environment and circumstances.

At least 188 teams will be formed to pursue the work in the next two months, said Dr. Rungruang Kitphati, the Public Health Ministry’s advisor and spokesperson.

“The city’s environment and circumstances are complicated, prompting a large number of city residents to become less capable of accessing medical services. We have found, for instance, almost 100% of the senior members in some communities have not been able to reach the current vaccination program, and if we let them unvaccinated like this, they will become severely ill or die if infected. So we need the teams to help take care of these at-risk people,” said Dr. Rungruang.

The lockdown in the Dark Red zone will last at least 14 days starting from July 20 onwards.

The white paper “Fighting COVID-19: China in Action”

According to the Chinese government’s white paper “Fighting COVID-19: China in Action”, issued in the mid-last year, the situation in Wuhan city was noted to have become most pressing with the rapid increase in newly confirmed cases shortly after the virus was detected.

As a crucial step to stem the spread of the virus, the Chinese government took the decisive measure to close outbound traffic from Wuhan. This, the paper noted, marked “the beginning of an all-out battle” to protect Wuhan and Hubei from the epidemic.

According to the paper, Wuhan City Novel Coronavirus Prevention and Control Command Center issued the No.1 public notice on January 23 at around 2 am, declaring temporary closure of the city’s outbound routes at its airports and railway stations starting in the late morning. The Ministry of Transport, meanwhile, issued an emergency circular suspending passenger traffic into Wuhan from other parts of the country by road or waterway.

The National Health Commission (NHC) and five other government departments also issued the Notice on Preventing the Transmission of Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia via Means of Transport. From January 23 to 29, all provinces and equivalent administrative units on the Chinese mainland activated Level 1 public health emergency response, the paper which was published by China Daily, noted.

As a result, over 11 million Wuhan residents were particularly confined in their residences as part of the measures to suppress the virus by the Chinese government.

According to the same paper, residents were allowed to leave and no non-residents were allowed to access the community area other than for essential medical needs or epidemic control operations.

Community workers were responsible for the purchase and delivery of daily necessities according to residents’ needs, the paper noted. This approach was also applied in communities and villages in other parts of China, where all residents had to register and undergo temperature checking when leaving or entering the residential area or village, the paper further noted.

Outside, rigorous measures were taken to prevent public gatherings and cross-infection. The Chinese New Year holiday was extended, public gatherings were cancelled or postponed, and the spring semester was postponed in schools, the white paper noted.

Cinemas, theatres, internet cafes, and gyms were all closed, while strict procedures had to be followed in essential public facilities, including bus stations, airports, ports, farmers markets, shopping malls, supermarkets, restaurants and hotels, and in enclosed transport vehicles such as buses, trains and planes.

All persons were required to wear masks and undergo temperature monitoring when accessing these venues or vehicles. In addition, all such facilities had to be disinfected, meet certain hygiene standards, ensure good ventilation, monitor visitors’ temperature, and control the number of passengers or visitors at a given period of time, the white paper detailed.

These disease control measures were taken alongside the policy of “ensuring that all those in need are tested, isolated, hospitalized or treated”. Actions were taken to conduct mass screenings to identify people with infections, hospitalize them, and collect accurate data on case numbers.

Meanwhile, education programs were conducted to raise public awareness of the need for personal protection and enhance the sense of social responsibility. The tradition of the Patriotic Public Health Campaign which was initiated in the 1950s, with an emphasis on sanitation and personal hygiene, was also encouraged, along with a healthy, environment-friendly lifestyle, the paper said.

“It (The Chinese government) has adopted the most thorough, rigorous and comprehensive prevention and control measures, enforced quarantine and isolation on a scale never seen before, and mobilized medical resources across the country. It has ensured that all those in need have been tested, quarantined, hospitalized or treated,” noted the paper.

All these lasted 76 days, according to AP. As of May 31, the government reported the number of cumulative cases at 83,017 and the number of deaths at 4,634.