Top Virologist Advises Thais to Adapt to Virus New Normal

Health workers in protective suits prepare to test yachters from Australia and Malaysia for coronavirus in Phuket province on Nov. 27, 2020.

BANGKOK (Xinhua) — Thailand’s leading virologist Yong Pooworavan advised the Thai people on Friday to adapt to the COVID-19 new normal, rather than drop their guards and wait for COVID-19 vaccines jabs to arrive next year.

Yong’s call came after Thailand inked an advance agreement with AstraZeneca to secure local production of COVID-19 vaccines in Thailand.

The signing agreement was presided over by Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who said the contract was for the purchase of 26 million doses, enough for 13 million Thai people where each person gets two jabs.

Yong said the vaccine doses will be given first to healthcare frontline workers and people with high risk to infections.

“First of all, when the vaccine is ready by mid next year at the earliest, and people with high risks will be getting the jabs first,” said Yong, who is a virologist from the Faculty of Medical Science at Chulalongkorn University and a senior advisor to the Ministry of Public Health.

Yong said however the COVID-19 situation in Thailand will ease next year, although it will remain in the country for up to two years, after which the contagion will transform into a seasonal infection, like the flu.

“Therefore, always wear your masks when you are outside and practice social distancing and ensure your hands are always clean,” he said.

Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute said AstraZeneca is currently in the last stage of vaccine trials before seeking final regulatory approvals for broad distribution to the world.

Thailand has reported 3,961 COVID-19 cases with 60 fatalities so far.