A senior health official reminds the public to remain vigilant, as neighbouring countries experience an increase in Covid-19 cases, with the latest surge appearing to be a result of the Omicron XBB.1.5 sub-variant.

Or Vandine, secretary of state and spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, issued her advice on May 28, the day after the Bangkok Post reported that Thai hospitals were being overwhelmed.

The newspaper cited Siriraj Piyamaharajkarun Hospital in Bangkok as saying that it could not accept any more Covid-19 patients as all beds for critical coronavirus patients were fully occupied.

“Beds for Covid-19 patients at all rooms in the intensive care unit [ICU] and inpatient department [IPD] are fully occupied,” the hospital announced in a May 27 social media post.

Vandine reiterated calls for people to practise preventive measures.

“The rise in confirmed cases in neighbouring countries and around the world shows that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over,” she said.

Citing the World Health Organisation (WHO), she explained that Covid-19 is now an established and ongoing health issue, although it no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine (left) talks to people queued up for the Covid jab in Tbong Khmum province in February. MOH

“People in the region, and indeed the world, seem to have neglected some precautionary measures. Many of them are not keeping up to date with their booster shots, which means their immunity is declining,” she said.

“This may be the reason why more people are catching the virus. Perhaps they thought the crisis was over, but actually it is ongoing. We need to remain vigilant to protect our health and prevent the widespread return of the virus,” she added.

Vandine stressed that nobody could be certain when new variants might emerge, or how the virus might mutate, saying it is even possible that a more contagious and severe form could appear, triggering a second crisis.

“We are renewing our calls for people to continue to take precautions and to be prepared in advance for a possible outbreak in the future. We must all … learn to live with Covid-19 responsibly,” she added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen echoed her warnings, noting that people should take precautions to prevent a recurrence of the virus.

“The coronvirus appears to be returning to the region, so we must all remain vigilant,” he said.

The health ministry announced 10 new cases of community transmission on May 25.

As of May 28, the ministry had recorded 138,767 cases of Covid-19, with 135,684 recoveries and 3,056 deaths.