Amid Thailand’s latest, record-breaking wave of COVID-19 cases, various groups, associations, and networks are stepping up to the challenge.
The Institute of HIV Research and Innovation (IHRI) Foundation has admitted over 18,700 patients into its home isolation program and over 500 patients into its community isolation program as of mid-August 2021. The programs have provided more than 163,100 meals and more than 7,200 medical supply kits.
We spoke with Rena Janamnuaysook regarding her work with IHRI to facilitate community isolation.
Thailand NOW: Can you briefly explain what is “Community Isolation” and how it tackles the current Covid-19 situation in Thailand?
Rena Janamnuaysook: Community Isolation or CI is a program under the Community-led COVID-19 Support Workforce project; we call it “ComCOVID” for short. It is managed by IHRI in collaboration with the Royal College of Family Physicians of Thailand, the National Health Security Office (NHSO), and networks of civil society organizations.
Initially, ComCOVID aimed to help COVID-19 patients with home isolation, which started in April 2021, led by Dr. Nittaya Phanuphak, the IHRI’s Executive Director. However, due to the sharp increase of cases, especially in the first two weeks of July, home isolation has become increasingly difficult, especially within vulnerable and crowded communities such as slums, construction sites, factories, and migrant worker villages. Additionally, there are increasing cases of COVID-19, which have affected whole communities.
By deploying community isolation, we can target these groups through “bubble and seal” and prevent further community transmission. We help to educate the community on dealing with patients within the community in cooperation with our volunteers and medical staff.
TN: How can a community be admitted into Community Isolation?
RJ: We are notified of new cases through one of our home isolation volunteers, which will relay the information to us. The case will be evaluated and initial screening will take place. The community leader will be informed of the situation and consent to the CI team to access the community and take the next necessary step.
TN: How does the community cooperate with the CI staff? What do they need to look out for?
RJ: Our volunteers will train the community on signs and symptoms, precautions, and the use of the medical kits provided by our team. We will closely monitor the patients and provide necessary aids and treatments such as medical oxygen or antiviral drugs.
Patients coded in dark green, which are those that show mild to moderate symptoms, can receive favipiravir (an antiviral medication) prescribed by the doctor as soon as possible. Additionally, they can be separated from the community to increase the rate of recovery.
For patients in yellow and red, or with additional medical issues, our medical staff in the volunteer team will alert ComCOVID of further necessary equipment or medical needs with the utmost urgency. The most severe cases will be prioritized for hospital admission. Although the demand for medical supplies and hospital beds far exceeds capacity, we do our best to deliver the necessary treatments as soon as possible.
Additionally, the community members will have their capacity strengthened to be able to identify high-risk contacts of these index cases who will be prioritized for immediate testing and isolation to limit the next waves of transmission in that community.
TN: How can the Community Isolation project be expanded?
RJ: Governmental organizations, private sectors, and hospitals from across the country have contacted us to study our method and work in action. If ‘Community Isolation’ can be more widely expanded it may prove to be the key factor in dealing with the latest wave of COVID-19 patients. Currently, civil society and business organizations are the major driving force and support of our community isolation program.
TN: How can we get in contact with ComCOVID?
RJ: Anyone can contact us through the ComCOVID LINE official account (@comcovid-19) or through our volunteers. We continue seeking to recruit new staff and volunteers to support the increasing COVID-19 cases and allow the project to expand and reach more communities. You can find out more about us on ComCOVID and IHRI official web pages.
TN: How can we help support the Community Isolation project?
RJ: We are open to donations of medical equipment such as pulse oximeters and thermometers. These pieces of equipment make up the “survival kit” essential for community isolation.
TN: What is the key to the success of Community Isolation?
RJ: Two words: “community empowerment.” If the community is strong and determined, with a leader who fosters the spirit of community and cooperation, our ComCOVID team will be the helping hand in helping the community fight the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand. To prevent the ongoing transmission, the government needs to immediately make vaccines available and accessible for the marginalized community.