CU News

“Do not panic” Chula COVID-19 chief warns

Since the onset of the global spread of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 earlier this year, Chulalongkorn University has issued and implemented several preventive and control measures to cope with the crisis.  It was the first university in Thailand to have imposed a travel ban on students and staff to high-risk countries and to set up monitoring schemes.   

Behind this active stance and implementation of preventive and control measures is Professor Dr. Narin Hirunsutthikul, MD.  Apart from his position as vice president of the university in charge of planning and strategy, Professor Dr. Narin is also an expert in infectious disease and epidemiology from the Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University.

Most recently, Professor Dr. Narin was appointed as head of the university’s COVID-19 Emergency Operation Center, leading a group of executives and experts from various fields to handle issues arising from the outbreak on the university’s front.   

On 15 March, after Chulalongkorn University reported the first case of COVID-19 infection, panic attacks manifested in the university community.  Fear and confusion became widespread despite the fact that the administration had previously enforced online learning and work from home measures in preparation for these risks.

In this scenario, Professor Dr. Narin asserted that the most important thing is to be mindful and to observe the university guidance and measures.

“The keywords now are “Do not panic.” Because by panicking, we will not be mindful but only enwrapped ourselves in confusion.  As a result, we will not be able to respond to the crisis as effectively.  At Chula, we place the utmost importance on the safety and well-being of all students and staff.  We don’t want to see even a single case of infection,” said Professor Dr. Narin.

But the COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand has reached a critical point.  No one can be entirely safe under the circumstances.  Clear prevention and control measures must be enforced by the university and all members of the community must also strictly comply.

“From the moment we found that one of our staff was infected, we immediately tried to identify and locate all the persons who may have been exposed to the infected person.  All these close contacts have now been screened and tested and so far no one has tested positive,” said Professor Dr. Narin.

According to Professor Dr. Narin, COVID-19 is usually transmitted through close contacts (of not more than 1-2 meters) and exposure to body secretions of the infected.  With strict personal hygiene and proper preventive behavior, the chance of getting infected is very small.   

The sense of kinship and warmth found in the Chula community is priceless and a treasure worth keeping.

Prof. Dr. Pornanong Aramwit Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chulalongkorn University