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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Dr Yong: Omicron spike imminent, get booster to end pandemic

Neill Fronde

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FILE PHOTO: Dr Yong Poovorawan says Omicron will spread Covid-19 quickly.

Dr Yong Poovorawan, the chief of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at the Faculty of Medicine of Chulalongkorn University and Thailand’s top virologist authority, advised the people of Thailand to expect a dramatic increase in Covid-19 in Thailand, especially of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. His view is similar to that of Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul, who said New Year’s carelessness is bringing an expected rise in Covid-19 infections.

Yong posted to his Facebook page today that the variant spreads very easily especially during the New Year’s holiday where many people are travelling and out in public and are also celebrating and partying. He warned though that, after all the celebrations, people need to get serious and act conservatively, calling on the public to work together to reduce transmission and caseload.

While the Omicron variant is less potent than previous strains and so the percentage of hospitalizations and deaths are lower, the contagiousness of it could lead to such a high number of infections that even the lower severe case percentage has the possibility of overwhelming the capacity of hospitals and the public health system.

With mounting data showing that being fully inoculated may not be enough to stop Omicron variant infections, a third dose of many vaccines, including AstraZeneca, Modena, and Pfizer have been proven to strongly increase variant fighting antibodies and reduce the severity of infections. (2 doses of Sinovac with a Pfizer booster – a common vaccine cocktail in Thailand – has been shown to be ineffective against Omicron though.)

Yong called for Thailand to step up their third booster shot programme, especially for elderly people and those whose health is vulnerable to infection. He urged everyone to get their boosters if possible.

While the symptoms are less severe with the Omicron variant, hospital capacity still must be closely monitored. The doctor is suggesting that anyone asymptomatic or with only mild symptoms should isolate immediately at home, or if they are unable to, they should enter into a community isolation space.

When talking about death due to Covid-19, Yong had some positive data. He pointed to a study done by Johns Hopkins University that showed that each progressive wave of the pandemic brings with it a lower death rate. Thailand also has suffered a relatively low death rate from the Delta variant, with the 1% of deaths seen in the country lower than the average worldwide rate.

It is hoped that the less severe Omicron variant drops that death rate significantly further, making the risk involved with being infected by Covid-19 lower and lower. If the death rate falls 90% from 1% to 0.1% then Covid-19 — or at least the Omicron variant — would be considered a seasonal respiratory illness, harkening an end of the 2-year-long pandemic.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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    Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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