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  • Thailand | Omicron Virus BA.2 Subvariants Stats

    Thailand Omicron update: More than 500 cases, many Test & Go Travellers
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    As of yesterday, there have been 514 Omicron cases reported in Thailand, according to the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration. Of that number, 147 are local transmissions while others are from overseas, many who travelled to Thailand under the Test & Go quarantine exemption scheme. The entry programme allows fully vaccinated travellers from approved countries to enter Thailand after passing an on-arrival RT-PCR test. Registration for the scheme has been closed due to the uptick in Omicron cases involving travellers entering the country. Here are some notable cases reported over the last few weeks…

    25 Omicron cases reported after religious trip to Saudi Arabia
    After returning from an Islamic pilgrimage trip to Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca, 25 of the 31 people in the group tested positive for the Omicron variant, according to the Bangkok Post. They entered under the Test & Go quarantine exemption scheme, which allows fully vaccinated travellers to enter Thailand after passing an RT-PCR Covid-19 test.

    Koh Samui reports imported Omicron cases involving Test & Go travellers
    Three foreign travellers in Koh Samui tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month after arriving on the island from overseas, according to the Thai media outlet Khaosod. The two British nationals and Belgian nationals travelled separately and entered Thailand under the Test & Go quarantine exemption scheme, which requires the vaccinated travellers to pass an RT-PCR test before being allowed to travel through Thailand.

    Phuket reports four Omicron cases, lab tests being done to confirm variant for 74 cases
    Phuket reported four Omicron cases on December 20. One was a Thai national and the other three were foreigners from America, Tunisia, and Germany. At first, the province revealed five Omicron cases, but later confirmed the total was four and the other one case under review was found to be another variant, according to the Thai media outlet Baanmuang. There are now 74 Covid-19 cases in Phuket under review. Lab tests are being done to determine the variant for the infections reported between December 15 and 24, according to the Phuket Provincial Public Health Office. According to Phuket’s Public Health, from 15 – 24 December, there are 74 infected people who are now under investigation to find the variant, and most of them are from abroad.

    Local Omicron transmission reported at Surin, patient went to a local festival
    A 16 year old, who attended the Chang Fair, a popular annual elephant festival, on December 15 and 17, tested positive for the Omicron variant, according to Nation Thailand. Those who attended the festival can contact a local hospital for a free Covid-19 test. Surin’s Public Health authorities have been asking locals not to panic. Officials say they suspect the teenager contracted the virus from her relatives who recently came back from Denmark and have also tested positive for Omicron, according to the Thai media outlet Khaosod. He had dinner with his relatives on December 20 and tested positive for Omicron on Christmas.

    Two foreign tourists in Chiang Mai and another in Chiang Rai infected with Omicron
    Two foreign tourists in Chiang Mai tested positive for the Omicron variant. Their lab results are being tested again to confirm that they are infected with the emerging variant, according to the Bangkok Post. The travellers, a German and a British national, entered Thailand through the Test & Go scheme and tested negative for Covid-19 upon arrival in Bangkok. After travelling to Chiang Mai, one tourist felt exhausted after a jungle trip and was tested again at a nearby hospital. The British national also tested for Covid-19 again after arriving in Chiang Mai and his test came back positive. Another British man, who travelled from England to Bangkok, tested negative upon arrival and entered Thailand under the Test & Go scheme, according to the Bangkok Post. After two days in Bangkok, he flew to Chiang Mai and met up with some friends. He then travelled to Chiang Rai and then developed a fever. He tested positive in an at-home antigen test and his results were confirmed after an RT-PCR test at the hospital.
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  • #2
    Health officials play down concerns over Thailand’s first case of Delta Plus variant
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    The Disease Control Department has confirmed that Thailand has recorded its first case of the Delta Plus variant. However, Dr. Chawetsan Namwat from the DCD insists there’s no cause for alarm. The Delta Plus variant was first reported in the UK, which is currently experiencing a surge in infections. According to a Thai PBS World report, Delta Plus cases in the UK have increased in the past 28 days and account for 6% of infections. However, Chawetsan says the World Health Organisation has not classified Delta Plus as a variant of concern and says people in Thailand should not be worried. It’s understood the Department of Medical Science will hold a press conference today to provide more information on the case.

    Meanwhile, Chawetsan says Bangkok and the surrounding provinces are continuing to see a drop in new infections, but cases in the south of the country are still rising and now make up 23% of all new cases nationwide. Funerals are proving a significant contributor to the rise in cases, due to the number of people who eat and drink together, often sharing glasses. Chawetsan says people often don’t wear face masks or wear them incorrectly, adding that they also partake in gambling and stay overnight with funeral hosts. In addition, flooded areas have seen a rise in Covid-19 clusters among young children and family members who play together.

    However, Chawetsan goes on to say that the vaccine rollout is continuing successfully, with 70,505,802 doses now administered nationwide since February 28. Around 39,999,692 people have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 28,372,531 have received both. Some 2,133,579 have received third, or booster, doses. Thai PBS World reports that overall, 76.2% of the population has now been vaccinated.


    • #3
      Over 98% of new Covid-19 cases in Thailand are Delta variant

      Expert predictions about the Delta variant of Covid-19 becoming the dominant strain in Thailand by August came true several months ago, but testing shows that the Delta variant is now responsible for 98.6% of all new infections in Thailand. This data from the Department of Medical Science comes as the Delta Plus strain has been found in Thailand and may be up to 15% more transmissible.

      Testing in the week of October 16 to 22 found that nearly 99% of infections were of the Delta variant. Just 0.8% of new infections were the Beta variant, and 0.6% were the Alpha variant. In the Deep South, where the provinces have been experiencing a surge of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks, tests revealed that 96.9% of new infections are the Delta variant, with the Beta variant making up 2.3% and the Alpha variant 0.8%.

      The new Delta Plus variant causing concern is one of 47 Delta Plus subvariants identified so far worldwide. 19 of them have been uncovered within Thailand so far although researchers say none of them have shown any signs that they are more resistant to vaccines or faster spreading than the main Delta variant. The substrain that has been found to spread 15% faster is Delta Plus AY 4.2, a strain that the British government is monitoring but has not yet been found in Thailand.

      Domestically, Kamphaeng Phet Providence has been uncovering Delta Plus variants for one month now, all of which have been the AY 1 subvariant, which has not been shown to be more transmissible or vaccine-resistant, with no cases of the AY 4.2 variant found.

      Thailand has also seen 18 people infected with a subvariant of the Alpha strain known as E484K, identified late last month on September 27. Two of the infected patients were in Chiang Mai prison, 4 were Thai people in Chanthaburi and Trat, and the remaining 12 were Cambodian migrant workers. All 18 patients have been released from medical care after being cured of the strain of Covid-19.


      • #4
        Chiang Mai Central Prison uncovers Alpha Plus Covid-19 cases

        While 98% of Covid-19 in Thailand is now the Delta variant, with fears of some of the new Delta Plus strains creeping into the country, two inmates at Chiang Mai Central Prison have been diagnosed with infections of the Alpha Plus variant. The Covid-19 infection was originally detected in late September from genome sequencing and the Alpha variant discovery has just now been announced.

        One of the patients is HIV positive and had previously recovered from Covid-19 and then became re-infected, well the other had been in close contact with the first, acting as a caretaker for him. The first patient originally contracted Covid-19 in May before the Delta variant was so dominant, and his infection was of the Alpha variant.

        A new test of the whole genome sequencing for his current infection shows that it is a sub-variant of the Alpha strain. Genome sequencing is being regularly conducted in line with the Public Health Ministry’s guidelines in order to track the various strains and variants and how frequently they’re found in Thailand now.

        An assistant Public Health officer pointed out that people with compromised immune systems can retain the virus the longer periods of time which can allow mutation. He said the patient had no travel history or exposure to the substrain from others.

        Outside of the prison walls, Chiang Mai has been suffering its own surge in Covid-19 infections that has put the popular tourist province in peril ahead of Monday’s reopening. The governor has advised schools to delay for 2 weeks the planned Monday reopening of on-site learning if Covid-19 outbreaks are detected nearby. He urged schools and education institutes to be aware of the clusters in several areas around the province and consider delaying reopening until November 14.

        Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul, ever the optimist, has stated he’s confident the Covid-19 surge in Chiang Mai will be quickly contained, commenting that Chiang Mai’s public health system was better prepared than most provinces but resources we’re ready to be mobilized as needed.

        He said most infections we’re linked to markets in urban areas, and that he is closely monitoring the situation. Chiang Mai will continue to restrict large gatherings and for the international reopening on November 1 they will only open four districts to travellers: Doi Tao, Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, and Muang.


        • #5
          Covid-19 falling, even in Deep South, but still dire in Chiang Mai

          According to the Ministry of Public Health, the good news is that, throughout Thailand, Covid-19 infection rates are successfully falling. The bad news is that Chiang Mai, traditionally a popular tourist and expat living destination, is a notable exception to the rule, with an increasingly dire situation on the ground there.

          Infection numbers in the Deep South of Thailand continue to be concerning, but they have at least been on a mostly downward trend in the provinces of Narathiwat, Pattani, Songkhla, and Yala following increasingly strict Covid-19 control measures that seem to have helped contain the infection spread.

          But Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south, as well as Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Phattalung, Tak, and Trang provinces, are still reporting worrisome numbers that require close observation, according to the Ministry of Public Health’s Permanent Secretary. The numbers have been declining, but not nearly as quickly as officials would like to see.

          In Chiang Mai, the continuing Covid-19 numbers have led to a critical bed shortage that has been ongoing for several weeks, with ICU and hospital facilities struggling to keep up with needs. Patients classified as Orange and Red – severe to critical symptoms – are especially facing issues with beds being unavailable. Nakornping Hospital is setting up a field hospital ICU facility utilising Hall 3 of Chiang Mai International Airport and will be able to house and care for 50 severe Covid-19 patients.

          3 venues in 3 different districts also were ordered closed by the Communicable Disease Committee in Chiang Mai this week after Covid-19 infection clusters were uncovered. In Mae Taeng district the Ban Khru Nong nursery was ordered closed, as were Ko Mui night market in Saraphi district and Thung Siao fresh market in San Patong district.

          Patrons of any of the 3 locations that were considered high risk were instructed to get tested for Covid-19 and self-isolate for 14 days regardless of the test results. Others who had visited but were considered low risk for infection were instructed to just self-monitor for 2 weeks.


          • #6
            New Covid-19 strain named “Omicron” and a variant of concern

            Omicron is the new Covid-19 to watch out for, having just received its Greek name and the highest category of classification, “variant of concern”. The B.1.1.529 strain, recently uncovered in southern Africa and already seeing some spread, was given the Omicron name and classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation yesterday.

            From least worrisome to most urgent, the order of classifications goes: “Variant Being Monitored”, “Variant of Interest”, “Variant of Concern” and finally the extreme “Variant of High Consequence”. But there has yet to be a strain of Covid-19 that has earned the High Consequence title, making Omicron’s classification the top tier, along with the Delta, Alpha, Beta, and Gamma variants.

            The Omicron variant is so new the WHO doesn’t yet have data to predict its threat and it could take several weeks to have a clearer picture of if the virus is more transmissible, more severe, or more resistant to any or all vaccine brands. But the speed in which the variant went from being formally reported to the WHO on Wednesday from the first known cases in South Africa to being upgraded to a variant of concern is alarming.

            People around the world panicked and scrambled on fears of what the new Omicron variant might bring. The global economy suffered a hit, with stock markets around the world plunging as well as oil prices dropping. Countries scrambled to implement bans on flights coming from South Africa over the protest of the country.

            The first known case of what is now identified as the Omicron variant was collected on November 9, but overall infections have soared in South Africa, suggesting a possible correlation. Early studies show Omicron has a lot of mutations, and reinfection may be more likely with this strain than others. So far though, standard testing seems just as accurate at picking up the new variant.

            The Omicron variant has been found in nearly every province of South Africa, as well as Botswana, Belgium, Israel, and Hong Kong. Many European countries have already moved to restrict flights from South Africa, but the WHO is advising against enacting travel restrictions around the world just yet.


            • #7
              “Omicron” – a new Covid variant triggers travel alarms as flights disrupted

              A reminder today that there is still more steam left in the Covid-19 coronavirus. Just as the world started to peek from behind the curtain of uncertainty, another Covid “variant of concern”, named Omicron, has been discovered. The World Health Organisation says Omicron has a large number of mutations, and early evidence suggests an “increased reinfection risk”. Officially, it is designated B.1.1.529. They have already explained that the variant has “around double the amount of mutations as the Delta variant”.

              WHO scientists say it could take several weeks to complete their studies of B.1.1.529 “Omicron” to identify “any changes in transmissibility, severity or implications for Covid vaccines, tests and treatments”. The name ‘Omicron’ follows the WHO protocol on naming variants after letters in the Greek alphabet. It is not known, at this stage, what efficacies the current vaccines will have on Omicron.

              With the current focus on South Africa, world travel has again been thrown into disarray as nation’s scramble to stop further transmission. The EU, US and other major destinations, are now blocking flights from African countries. Earlier emergency travel responses, aimed at stopping transmission of Covid-19 variants, mostly delayed but didn’t stop the spread of the virus.
              • At this time, Omicron (sounds like the bad guy from a Marvel movie) has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, as well as 2 travellers currently quarantining in Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium. Already US President Joe Biden is cutting off travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi starting from Monday.
              • Canada has also moved quickly to contain the new strain. We are “banning the entry of foreign nationals that have traveled through southern Africa in the last 14 days”, according to Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos.
              • Travellers from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini have also been prevented from entering the UK unless they are UK or Irish nationals, or UK residents. The UK’s Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has described the new Covid variant as the “worst ever” strain of the virus.
              • Regionally, Singapore is opting to ban all non-residents from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe from entering the island, while Singapore nationals and permanent residents returning from any of these countries “must serve a 10 day stay home notice”.
              • Malaysia and the Philippines have already taken the same steps to restrict entry from the listed countries.
              • Japan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan are also leading the way to impose restrictions on flights and travellers from the southern African nations. Many other countries are expected to fall into line with the new travel restrictions over the weekend.

              But the International Air Transport Association, representing the world’s long-suffering airlines, is warning against new travel bans and restrictions, claiming they are “not a long-term solution” when it comes to managing the mutating C-19 variants.

              IATA Director General Willie Walsh said the industry needed to “use the experience of the last two years to move to a coordinated data-driven approach that finds safe alternatives to border closures and quarantine”.
              The developments following the announcement of Omicron in the past few days are leading to speculation that the strict curbs on world travel, brought in at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, could be on their way back. And just in the weeks before the travel industry’s busiest time of the year.

              Stock markets around the world fell sharply on the announcement of the new Covid-19 variant. Even Bitcoin plunged some 5% when the news came out. Meanwhile Thailand, via the CCSA, the country’s Covid-19 Taskforce, announced a series of reduced restrictions and travel impositions on Nov. 26.2021.


              • #8
                New variant could dampen Thailand’s reopening enthusiasm

                Thailand was the first country in Asia to more fully reopen to foreign travellers, and it is seeing a slow recovery, with more bookings for hotels, and new faces along shopping strips and markets in the country. November 1 was the launch of the Thailand Pass and a broader reopening to fully vaccinated travellers and tourists from 63 low-risk countries.

                But on one hand there is an excitement about the kickstart to the Thai economy, just in time for the traditional high season of traffic. But news from the past few days, about the new Covid variant Omicron, is now forcing Thai officials to ban traffic from 8 countries. There is likely to be more as some countries have also started banning additional destinations over the past 24 hours.

                But Deputy PM, and Minister of Energy, Supattanapong Punmeechaow says the Thai government is “monitoring the situation” but is “not too worried because so far only 22 people have been found infected by this variant” in the world. Regionally, Omicron infections have only been detected in 2 Hong Kong travellers. The Minister claims “all public health measures, ranging from vaccination and medicines to medical equipment, are being prepared to deal with new infections”.

                Thailand, battered by Covid-19 and border closures, due to its reliance on tourism as a major contributor to its GDP, will be keen to dodge any new Omicron bullets. In sheer numbers, up to the end of October this year, Thailand saw 106,117 foreign ttravellers, a drop from 6.7 million in 2020 (most of those in the Q1). Before the Covid pandemic, in 2019, Thailand welcomed 39.6 million international arrivals.

                Thailand’s nouveau voyageurs for 2021 are mostly from Europe, including Germany, UK, Scandinavian countries, then the US, Middle East, and Asia Chief executive of Asset World Corporation, Wallapa Traisorat, says that domestic travel certainly helped. “For November, we should see 30 percent occupancy, and in the fourth quarter we hope to see better momentum from the reopening.” Thailand’s ever-optimistic Tourism Authority of Thailand has, again, downplayed its earlier enthusiastic prognostications and now expects only 200,000 foreign tourists for 2021. And 5 million in 2022, down from earlier predictions of 10, then 8 million.

                But the new spectre of Omicron, a potentially more transmissible variant of Covid 19, could scupper Thailand’s best laid plans. The pioneers of Thailand’s new Test & Go entry strategy, for fully vaccinated travellers doing a single night in quarantine waiting for their PCR results, has been moderately successful, but nothing like the government’s predictions. Whilst Test & Go made getting back into Thailand a lot easier, foregoing lengthy stays in Alternative Quarantine hotels, the restrictions that still plague the country are putting off any real recovery, even if the world travellers were starting to flick through Thai travel brochures.

                Bars will remain closed until January 16, 2022. But a loophole in the government’s ban on bars, perhaps intentional, allows restaurants to serve alcohol. This has spawned an entire industry of former bars converting into makeshift ‘restaurants’ where you can get a few chicken nuggets with a beer. With some additional lighting, signage, and adherence to Covid precautions, the authorities have been reasonably tolerant towards Thailand’s bar and nightlife industry, trying to reboot their industry with their pop-up eating establishments.

                But other restrictions remain on opening hours, the wearing of masks in public and domestic flights requiring passengers to be fully vaccinated (in most cases). There’s also expensive Covid-19 insurance packages that have to be purchased before foreigners can re-enter Thailand. The appearance of a new “variant of concern” is likely to prolong these restrictions and delay any further immediate recovery in Thailand’s fraught tourism industry.

                And then there’s the Thailand Pass, the digital version of the earlier Certificate of Entry, which had a really glitchy start but has steadily improved its efficiency. Anyone coming to Thailand at this time, Thais or foreigners, have to upload documentation, including pre-booked accommodation and vaccination certificates, before being sent a QR code which is used as they arrive and progress through immigration and health checks.

                The response from travellers has been mixed with plenty madly Instagramming photos of pleasant, uncrowded tourist attractions, empty beaches and retail outlets keen to banter and haggle again. But others have found the ‘new Thailand’ a bit quiet for their tastes and long for the bars and entertainment strips to reopen. Many say they’re confused with all the changes to the rules (additional changes were announced on Friday by the CCSA) and would prefer clearer guidelines before they arrive.

                How the new Omicron variant pans out will inevitably affect Thailand, and the region’s, reopening to international travellers.


                • #9
                  Latest Update on Omicron

                  World travel destinations are moving to block flights from up to 10 African countries following the discovery of the Omicron Covid-19 variant this week. Officially, the new variant is designated B1.1.529. This is the latest information about the current status on Omicron. The new Covid-19 mutation was first reported to the World Health Organisation on Wednesday this week, by scientists from South Africa. Whilst it has been reported first in South Africa it has not yet been determined where the mutation may have emerged.

                  Early evidence and genome sequencing is suggesting the Omicron variant has a higher re-infection risk than early strains of the Covid-19 coronavirus. With more than 30 different mutations on the virus’ spike protein, the part that binds to a human cell and infecting it, Omicron “could both be more transmissible and have more mechanisms to evade immunity already conferred by vaccines or prior infection”, according to Dr. Angelique Coetzee, head of the South African Medical Association.

                  The earliest known case of the Omicron Covid variant was on November 9, according to the WHO, and the mutation was first detected last Wednesday in South Africa. While the delta variant is still the dominant strain worldwide, accounting for 99.9 percent of current cases in the US for example, the discovery of Omicron coincides with a surge of new South African infections, an over 1,000 percent increase over the past 2 weeks.
                  In response, countries around the world are racing to introduce flight and travel bans on southern African countries in an effort to contain the variant’s spread. The swift response threw travel plans out of the African continent into confusion as airlines cancelled outbound flights.

                  In Thailand, the Thailand Pass website now says…. “the issuance of Thailand Pass for travelers from the following 8 countries will be temporarily suspended…

                  1. Botswana
                  2. Eswatini
                  3. Lesotho
                  4. Malawi
                  5. Mozambique
                  6. Namibia
                  7. South Africa
                  8. Zimbabwe

                  People coming from all other countries in the African region must now pay for 14 day alternative quarantine when they arrive in Thailand. The announcement followed other Asian countries tightening borders over the latest concerns.
                  • The Israel PM Naftali Bennett has announced “sweeping travel restrictions covering most of Africa” following the indemnification of a positive Omicron case on Friday. “We are on the verge of a state of emergency.”
                  • The UK’s health secretary Sajid Javid has announced that 2 people in the UK have been found infected with the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.
                  • The new variant has also been identified in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel. Several other EU destinations, including Germany and the Czech Republic, say they are investigating suspected Omicron cases.

                  The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control made a statement on Friday, saying that, “given the variant’s immune escape potential and potentially increased transmissibility advantage compared to Delta (Covid variant), there is a high to very high risk it will spread in Europe. More worrying, 2 flights carrying up to 600 passengers out of South Africa – 1 from Cape Town and 1 from Johannesburg – landed on Friday at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. Dutch health authorities have now confirmed 61 of the passengers tested positive for Covid-19, but it hasn’t been determined if they’ve been infected with the Omicron variant.

                  “The combination of mutations represents a significant potential risk to accelerate the waning of natural and vaccine-induced immunity”.
                  Omicron is the latest variant of Covid-19, but it won’t be the last. The biggest issue for health authorities now is to find out if Omicron has additional resistance to the current Covid vaccines being used around the world.
                  Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health on Rhode Island, US, believes the variant will create a situation where “vaccines will be rendered useless.” Yesterday he said “there’s more reason for concern with Omicron”.

                  “We have seen a lot of variants pop up over the last 5, 6 months, and most of them have not amounted to much. This looks different. It’s acting differently, it looks like it’s much more contagious than even the Delta variant.” Moderna, manufactuers of one of the mRNA Covid vaccines, made a statement late on Friday, saying the new Omicron variant is “believed to increase transmissibility and mutations seen in the Beta and Delta variants that are believed to promote immune escape”.
                  AstraZeneca, which is also manufactured in Thailand, is saying that it’s looking to understand the impact Omicron has on its vaccine. AZ is not currently authorised for use in the US.

                  “AstraZeneca is also already conducting research in Botswana and Eswatini, that will enable us to collect real world data of Vaxzevria against this new virus variant,”
                  a spokesperson for the company said Friday. AZ is also testing its antibody treatment, AZD7442, against the variant. BioNTech, the German company that partnered with Pfizer to produce its mRNA Covid vaccine, are also testing the impact of Omicron on their vaccine. They expect preliminary results in the next few weeks. Johnson & Johnson announced in a statement that the company was also testing the effectiveness of its vaccine against the new variant.


                  • #10
                    PM will decide on need for lockdown if and when Omicron found in Thailand

                    The health ministry says the Thai PM will decide what steps to take if and when the Omicron Covid-19 variant is found in the kingdom. The Bangkok Post reports that the relevant agencies have been instructed to continue monitoring the situation and the Public Health Ministry will review the country’s re-opening in 2 weeks’ time.

                    Speaking to the Bangkok Post, Sathit Pitutecha from the Health Ministry says people shouldn’t panic and that border officials are ramping up surveillance measures to prevent migrants from entering illegally and bypassing health checks. According to Sathit, a lockdown has not been discussed, but the government will continue to monitor developments concerning the new variant.

                    “The situation will be monitored closely. Measures will be reviewed based on new information coming in. If the Omicron strain is found in Thailand, the country will have to face another lockdown. It is the prime minister’s policy and he will make a quick decision as director of the CCSA.”
                    Sathit adds that the proposed re-opening of entertainment venues and nightlife could still go ahead on January 16, subject to Omicron not being detected in Thailand. The Bangkok Post reports that he has stressed the ongoing need to adhere to Covid-19 prevention measures, including mask-wearing, regular hand-washing, social distancing, temperature checks, and use of the Thai Chana app.

                    Meanwhile, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who is currently attending the World Health Assembly in Switzerland, says Thailand is monitoring developments in the race to develop effective vaccines, with Thai scientists also working on new vaccines.

                    In related news, the emergence of Omicron has prompted the CCSA to backpedal on a plan to replace PCR testing on arrival with antigen test kits. At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, it was decided PCR tests will remain in place for international arrivals.


                    • #11
                      Moderna leader says vaccine likely less effective against Omicron

                      The head of American vaccine maker Moderna said in an interview with Financial Times that their vaccine may not be strongly effective against the new Omicron variant. Stephane Bancel said in an interview published yesterday that it will take months to develop a new version of the vaccine that is tested and confirmed to be effective against the new strain of Covid-19 that is causing a global panic.

                      Omicron is still so new that solid data is not yet available, so there is some hope that the new variant won’t be as vaccine resistant, severe, or transmissible as many fear, but Moderna’s head said that scientists he’s been in contact with are not holding their breath and expecting good news about it.

                      While the World Health Organisation had earlier discouraged rash banning of flights and countries, they most recently stated that the Omicron variant is very high risk. G7 health ministers have also convened emergency meetings to discuss the new variant and how best to move forward and respond to the outbreak now found in countries around the world, with Singapore recently joining the list.

                      Many countries have grounded flights and banned travel from certain countries, while some such as Japan have closed their borders altogether. Politicians have frequently tried to strike a calming tone, with US President Joe Biden saying Monday that Omicron is “not cause for a panic,” and Thailand’s Public Health Ministry assuring they are monitoring the variant and people should continue to observe existing disease prevention measures.

                      But the Moderna head spoke more frankly, forecasting a “material drop” in effectiveness for their vaccine against the Omicron variant. He explained that an alarming facet of the new variant is that of the 50 mutations identified, 32 of them are on the spike protein, which is what vaccines target to effectively strengthen immune systems against Covid-19, meaning that the mutations could damage and weaken the efficacy of the vaccine.

                      He announced that Moderna – like Pfizer recently announced – is already working on an updated vaccine to target Omicron, but warns that it could be a mistake to shift all production to that vaccine since other strains like the Delta variant are still predominant in the world. The Moderna leader did predict that the company is capable of producing between 2 and 3 billion vaccines in 2022.


                      • #12
                        First Omicron case detected in Thailand

                        The Thai Ministry of Public Health announced earlier today that the first covid variant ‘Omicron’ has been detected in the country. The person is a 36 year old American tourist who from Spain, via Dubai, on the Test and Go scheme (for travellers who have been fully vaccinated).

                        It’s been revealed that he was living in Spain for 12 months. He tested negative in Spain on November 28 before flying to Thailand, via Dubai on November 29.. He spent some 9 hours in transit in Dubai.. Arriving on November 30, he trailed to his room where he underwent the mandatory PCR test. His result came back positive. It’s been reported that he has no underlying conditions and no symptoms.

                        It’s also been revelled that the man was vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in June this year. 17 close contacts have been detected atthe man’s SHA+ hotel, along with 2 airport staff.

                        At this stage the Thai government has banned travellers from 8 southern African countries. Given the man’s origins and travel route, will the government also add Spain, Dubai, or even the US to its travel ban? The Thaiger will bring you all the latest information about this developing story.


                        • #13
                          5 Omicron variant infections identified in Phuket

                          Phuket province has now identified 5 cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 according to health officials on the island. All 5 infections were identified from the RT-PCR test that all international arrivals are administered as soon as they land in Thailand.

                          The Omicron infections were found in people who arrived on December 13 and December 14. One infection was in a Thai national who was returning from a pilgrimage to Saudia Arabia via Qatar, while another was a Tunisian person from France. A third infection was found in a Swedish traveller coming from Sweden and the last 2 were identified in an American and a German person, both of whom had flown from the UK.

                          The travellers who tested positive for the Omicron variant in Phuket were between the ages of 24 and 26. 3 had been fully vaccinated with Pfizer, while one had received 2 Moderna vaccines. The Thai national had received 2 doses of the Sinovac vaccine as well as a Pfizer booster shot. They were all transferred to hospital facilities.

                          All 5 travellers had travelled on flights routed through Saudi Arabia and had tested negative for Covid-19 with RT-PCR tests before boarding the flight to Phuket. There were 132 other passengers on the flight but no other positive tests for Omicron have been identified yet in Phuket.

                          They were entering Thailand as part of the Test & Go programme that would have allowed them to travel freely after testing, had the results been negative. The group of 5 passengers were quarantined locally for 5 days before moving south to Pattani province to continue quarantine there under a special arrangement from the Phuket Provincial Police. They will remain under observation by medical staff for another 9 days for a full 14-day quarantine.

                          The first positive test for the Omicron variant in Phuket was first identified on Friday, but the other 4 passengers were already under quarantine before the Covid-19 infection was confirmed as the Omicron variant. The Phuket Provincial Public Health Office confirmed that the outbreak was fully contained and there was no chance it would spread onto the island. They assured that there was no safety threat to the people of Phuket and urged everyone not to panic.


                          • #14
                            3 Passengers Test Positive for Omicron on Koh Samui

                            Three recent arrivals on the Gulf island of Koh Samui have been detected with the Omicron variant of Covid-19 – 2 British citizens and 1 Belgian.

                            The 3 include a 54 year old British woman, a 55 year old Belgian man and a 56 year old British man. The 3 new cases are the first, not only for the holiday island, but also the first for the province of Surat Thani. The trio arrived last Thursday on separate flights.

                            Case 1: The 54 year old British woman arrived with her husband. He has so far tested negative. They arrived via BKK and Singapore Airport, from the UK
                            Case 2: The 55 year old Belgian man also arrived from BKK from Belgium, via the UAE and Singapore.
                            Case 3: The 56 year old British man was from the UK and arrived on Koh Samui from a direct flight from Singapore.

                            All 3 arrived in Koh Samui on the Test and Go program. All 3 were reported with “mild” symptoms when they arrived. A total of 49 crew and other passengers have since been tested after being assessed as at high-risk from the flights to the island. A further 8 people staying at the same hotels as the infected passengers when they arrived have also been tested. Health officials say they will retest the high-risk people again in the next few days.

                            Meanwhile, discussion are now underway to discuss the possibility of cancelling Thailand’s Test & Go (almost) quarantine-free scheme, due to the uptick in Covid Omicron cases. But, as a minimum, the CCSA say they are looking to review the list of countries considered to be at “low risk” for Covid-19 and consider whether to ban travellers from “high risk” countries. At the moment, travellers from 63 low risk countries are allowed to enter Thailand on the Test and Go program with a one night stay in an approved SHA+ hotel.

                            Thailand’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told Thai media today that his ministry is making a proposal to the CCSA to cancel the program, which allows vaccinated travellers from approved countries to enter Thailand, with just a one night isolation when they arrive while waiting for test results.


                            • #15
                              Omicron Covid-19 cases double, now 205 confirmed in Thailand

                              Just 2 days after Covid-19 infections with the Omicron variant passed 100 in Thailand, Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul has announced that the total has doubled and there are 205 confirmed cases in the country. Several clusters have been identified, with one originating in Kalasin being the cause for most concern.

                              That cluster started when a husband and wife returned from Belgium with their initial Covid-19 tests on arrival in Thailand coming back negative. They then return freely to their hometown and later continued to Udon Thani in order to visit their children.

                              Despite the couple initially testing negative for Covid-19, relatives in close contact with the pair tested positive with what was determined to be the Omicron variant after their visit, fueling suspicion the couple who had recently travelled internationally was the source of the outbreak.

                              Health officials examined through contact tracing to investigate who else could be at high risk and determined there were 22 people in close contact with them – 3 of those being immediate family members, and the other 19 being restaurant employees. Another 100 people were flagged at risk.

                              The higher-profile case of the Israeli tourist who escaped from his arrival hotel in Bangkok before test results were received found that his initial results came back positive with traces of the Omicron variant. After evading arrest for about 6 days, he turned himself in and was tested three separate times, all of which came back negative for Covid-19.

                              Officials said he appears to have recovered from infection and there’s no word on any new cases directly linked to his time as a fugitive. The Health Service Support Department will be investigating if the hotel was negligent in enforcing their Covid-19 safety requirements leading to the escape.

                              While speaking about the Omicron situation, Anutin reassured that there will not be another lockdown despite rumours of one coming in January. The rumours may stem from the fact that Test & Go arrivals have been curbed until at least January 4 so all new international arrivals will have to quarantine or use the Phuket Sandbox, along with the fact that many New Year’s events, especially state-run ones have been cancelled fear of the spread of the Omicron variant.