The director-general of the DMS, Opas Kankawinphong, outlined what the public health community was doing to prepare for the reemergence of the novel coronavirus even though the country has witnessed no local cases for more than 50 days.
He said the number of laboratories, public and private, has been boosted to 209 across the country, from an initial two when the outbreak started in January, and all of them can return results within 24 hours.
He also talked up Thailand’s vaccine research efforts, increased local production of COVID-19 test kits, the development of new testing methods and investigation into mutations of the virus.
To expand testing capacity, the department has also collaborated with the Department of Communicable Diseases Control to roll out saliva tests which have proved to be easier, effective and less costly elsewhere. Currently, the RT-PCR “swab test” is used which is 95% accurate.
Dr Opas said the country was also moving closer to finding a COVID-19 vaccine after a second round of testing an mRNA vaccine on monkeys proved to be successful. Tests on humans are likely to take place in October.
He said the Department of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine was testing the effectiveness of the traditional medicinal herb fa talai jone, or andrographis, in fighting the virus and initial results were very promising.
In terms of testing, Mr Opas said that a total of 652,089 samples have been checked since January, with four in a 1,000 having come back positive. He said this indicated that public health authorities have been actively searching for COVID-19 cases.
“So we are ready and we have the resources to tackle any outbreak,” he said.
Dr Opas added that the department is also monitoring virus strains.
“It is necessary to look for mutations to understand the threat it poses and so we can find drugs or develop vaccines,” he said.