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UK variant arrives in Thailand, top virologist warns against unnecessary Songkran travel



PHOTO: Luciano Teixeira on Pixabay

“Whatever will be, will be. The reason is, it’s a matter that involves a huge number of people. The government will have to try to cope with that later.” – Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.

A prominent Thai virologist has confirmed that the so-called UK Covid-19 variant, aka B117, is behind the latest cluster of infections detected at Bangkok nightlife venues, and now potentially spreading out to other provinces. Prof. Yong Poovorawan from Chulalongkorn University warns that this variant is 1.7 times more contagious than the original one and is urging people to avoid unnecessary travel over the Songkran holiday.

“If possible, there should not be any travel or movement right now. If that’s not possible, it is highly necessary to have strict measures to control the disease. Without sufficient intervention taken to curb these high-risk activities (over Songkran), the number of new infections could even reach thousands per day.”

Officials say they are baffled as to how the variant reached the Kingdom, despite strict testing and quarantine protocols. Yong says the government now needs to balance the risk to elderly citizens with measures to stimulate the economy over Songkran.

“The reason is that if there are so many new cases of Covid-19, economic stimulus through promotion of tourism won’t work as nobody would want to travel to an epidemic zone. Visiting older relatives during this festival is good, but it won’t be good if such visits mean spreading the virus to them also.”

However, the Bangkok Post reports that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha says the government will not impose a lockdown over Songkran, insisting that each province can implement its own disease prevention measures. He adds that the government will have to manage any potential fallout after the holiday.

“Whatever will be, will be. The reason is, it’s a matter that involves a huge number of people. The government will have to try to cope with that later. Of course, we can order a new lockdown and make everyone stay home (during the festival). But the question is will anyone be happy with that?”

Meanwhile, Yong is reportedly frustrated at the rate of vaccine rollout, warning of a need to ramp things up as a result of the new infections and the rapidly-spread variant.

“If Thailand can administer 100,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines per day, it will take about 3 years to achieve effective herd immunity against the pandemic, while if up to 300,000 doses are given a day, it will take only 1 year to achieve that goal.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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