BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand's health ministry approved the use of a herbal plant extract to treat early stages of Covid-19 as a pilot programme amid a flare-up in the coronavirus outbreak in the South-east Asian nation.
Andrographis paniculata, commonly known as green chiretta, will serve as an alternative treatment to reduce the severity of the outbreak and cut treatment costs, the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday (Dec 30).
The treatment will be available in five state-owned hospitals initially, it said.
Thailand reported 250 new cases on Wednesday, taking the nation's total to almost 7,000. A government official said the rate of increase in local transmissions was alarming and urged people to stay at home to prevent the virus from spreading further.
The government has also banned large gatherings in high-risk areas, said Dr Taweesilp Witsanuyotin, a spokesman for the national Covid-19 response centre.
The herbal treatment will be on a voluntary basis for those in the 18-60 age group with minor symptoms and should be conducted within 72 hours of confirmation of infection.
The extract from the plant, known as "fah talai jone" in Thai, can curb the virus and reduce severity of inflammation, the ministry said, citing studies.
Human trials showed that patient condition improved within three days of the treatment without side effects if the medicine is administered within 72 hours of testing positive.
Separately, Thai Food and Drug Administration said it is ready to register people to receive Covid-19 vaccines. The FDA has opened a special channel for the registration to ensure a speedy process.