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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Understanding Covid-19 UK variant as it hits Thailand

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Thailand's vaccines are less effective against the UK variant of Covid-19

The so-called UK variant of Covid-19, a strain that is 1.7 times more contagious and deadly, has arrived in Thailand, present in the cluster in Bangkok’s upscale Thong Lor area that has spawned the pandemic third wave. Here’s why you should care.

Referred to as the B117 variant, it first emerged in the UK county of Kent, though new research shows it may have been slowly spreading since September 2020. Its spread has accelerated quickly and is now the most prominent strain of Covid-19 in the UK. Studies show that the B117 strain is more deadly, with one study showing deaths from UK variant infections were 30 to 100% higher than earlier variants. The strain also has at least 23 mutations identified so far.

Virologists suspect that the UK variant of Covid-19 may have entered Thailand through Cambodia, as the two countries are experiencing similar infection surges. Thailand is the 42nd country to be infected with the variant. From April 1st, the 14 day mandatory quarantine was relaxed to only 10 days, which may have helped the B117 strain proliferate in Thailand. The Medical Sciences Department expects more detail on the origins in the next few days, after a detailed analysis.

One major problem this new strain presents is vaccine efficiency. Sinopharm, Pfizer and Moderna all look to be fairly effective against the UK variant, but Sinovac and AstraZeneca, the two vaccines currently available in Thailand are less promising. Both vaccines have tested less effective against B117, but AstraZeneca is still 70% effective, according to reports.

Unfortunately Thailand only has less than 120,000 AstraZeneca doses at this stage, but Thailand will soon produce AstraZeneca locally, under license, which is hoped to hasten the process.

Thailand’s Disease Control Department said over the weekend weekend that SinoVac and AstraZeneca meet the World Health Organisation standards and Thailand will push forward with its vaccination plan with the 2 million SinoVac doses they have already procured, a million of which have already arrived and are currently being rolled out. More than half a million jabs have been administered so far, and the DCD hopes 10 million vaccines will be given per month from June on.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

 

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Avatar

    john brig

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 11:48 am

    No commenters?

  2. Avatar

    James

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 11:58 am

    Kent is not a city. Kent is county. The city of Canterbury is in Kent. Much like San Francisco is a city in the state of California.

  3. Avatar

    Johnny from Ossan

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 12:10 pm

    All my comments get deleted cos im skeptical of a lot of information we’re told so now I dont feel like posting anymore

  4. Avatar

    Matt

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 12:28 pm

    Being as the UK, where the B117 strain was first identified, primarily used the AstraZeneca vaccine and has managed to get the B117 strain under control I wouldn’t be concerned the vaccines efficacy. Seems to have done the job.

  5. Avatar

    Phuket Tony

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    Uk Variant…

    And what about if we get a Indian variant, Singaporean variant, Mexican Variant, Russian variant, Canadian Variant, Bolivian Variant, Aussie Variant.?? Do we really keep closing down and living this way… really…??

    At some point we need to just deal with this flu and all others, as we cannot go on with what the government ( and media ) are doing… stop living in fear when you should and take back your life..!

  6. Avatar

    Slugger

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 1:09 pm

    Too many amateur professors post on here.

  7. Avatar

    Michael

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    @ Johny I’m happy to hear that the Thaiger is taking action against people spreading misinformation because they just don’t want to understand.

    My compliments to the moderators here! 😉

  8. Avatar

    Olga

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 1:57 pm

    How can comment on nonsense? In this article, stupidity shines so brightly that there are no words for comment.

  9. Avatar

    Sailor

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 3:28 pm

    Suggesting that relaxation of the mandatory Quarantine from 14 days to 10 days may have contributed to B117 variant spreading seems illogical. If doing the math, entering Thailand 1st of April where the Quarantine period was relaxed, one would be released from Quarantine 12th April. The B117 Covid varriant popped up well before this date within the Kingdom.

  10. Avatar

    Dreqo

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    “UK variant.” Purposeful misnomer.

  11. Avatar

    Mads

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    The 3rd world country United States can accomplish 4 mio vaccinations per day, but the far superior Thailand only 10 mio per month. Makes no sense.

  12. Avatar

    John Brown

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 7:50 pm

    B1.1.7 has been in the wild in Thailand since December. This is a sub-strain that contains additional mutations including the immune evasive E484K, which makes this basically equivalent to the much worse “South Africa” variant (B.1.351). This one’s been here for over 3 weeks and all the vaccines are ineffective against it. Everyone inside knows. We’re not going to recover from this wave without a full lockdown. The authorities have blood on their hands with this atrocious cover-up.

  13. Avatar

    edwardm

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 7:58 pm

    “Here’s why you should care”. Here’s why you should NOT care: there isn’t a darn thing you can really do about it except wear a mask and get a vaccine when you can.

  14. Avatar

    LondonAl

    Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 2:37 am

    30 million vaccinated in UK and to my knowledge not one has caught Covid, when they can actually prove the vaccines don’t work against the plethora of variants then I’ll take notice, until such time it’s nothing more than speculation and conjecture

  15. Avatar

    James

    Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 11:03 am

    Referred to as the B117 variant, it first emerged in the UK county of Kent, thought new research shows…

    Though* new research shows..

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Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Thailand. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

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.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket red zone list adds Krabi, Trang, Ranong, Phatthalung

Neill Fronde

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FILE PHOTO: The Phuket checkpoint now lists 25 provinces as a red zone.

Visitors to Phuket from Krabi, Trang, Ranong, and Phatthalung will now have to prove they’re vaccinated or have a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of arrival, as they’ve been added to the red zone province list. People entering without those qualifications will have to take a rapid antigen test on the spot before being allowed into Phuket.

The 4 provinces join a group of 21 other provinces already on the Phuket red zone list requiring strict measures to enter. That list even includes Phuket itself, as people do exit the province have to prove a negative test or vaccination before being allowed to re-enter.

Phuket’s vice governor made the announcement yesterday after the governor signed the order and put it into effect until at least May 15th. That same order requires all trucks transporting goods to travel from 11 pm to 5 am, the nighttime hours that other people are not allowed to enter the island. Phuket recently closed its entry checkpoints from late night to early morning after reports of exhaustion from the health officials working to test everyone or verify their credentials.

Delivery drivers will also have to pass the same requirements as red zone province arrivals before entering Phuket. Any driver who does not have a negative test within 72 hours or proof that they’ve received both doses of a vaccine approved by Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration, will be forced to wait until the regular checkpoint opens at 5 am to receive a rapid antigen test.

Over 40,000 people from red zones have now been tested at the checkpoint to enter Phuket. In the first week of the requirement which began on April 22, health officials tested more than 22,000 people, overwhelming staff and prompting the government to close the entrance from 11 pm to 5 am to give checkpoint workers a break.

The 25 provinces currently classified as a red zone for entering Phuket are as follows:

Bangkok Nakhon Pathom Pathum Thani Rayong Suphan Buri
Chiang Mai Nakhon Ratchasima Phatthalung Sa Kaeo Surat Thani
Chonburi Nakhon Sri Thammarat Phuket Samut Prakan Tak
Khon Kaen Narathiwat Prachuap Khiri Khan Samut Sakhon Trang
Krabi Nonthaburi Ranong Songkhla Udon Thani

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

BMA admits Covid virus spreading fast in Bangkok, speeds up testing and jabs

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Stock photo via Flickr

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration says it is speeding up mass Covid-19 testing and inoculations in communities hit strongly by the virus, after admitting the virus is spreading fast in Thailand’s capital.

The city clerk says the administration, along with the Public Health Ministry and other agencies, are speeding up the collection of nasal swabs for Covid-19 tests, with a plan to test 3,000 people in high-risk groups per day. Those people deemed to be at an increased risk of the virus have been clustered by districts, with testing units in each of the 6 districts…

Laksi district, 70 Pansa Min Buri park in Min Buri district, Huai Khwang stadium in Huai Khwang district, under the Rama III expressway in Yannawa district, a public park under Rama VIII bridge in Bang Phlad district and The Mall Bangkae shopping centre in Bang Kae district.

The virus has been found in densely populated, low-income areas such as the Klong Toey community in Klong Toey district, Bon Kai community in Pathumwan district and Ban Khing community and The Mall Bangkae in Bang Kae district. In an effort to help those residents stay at home to prevent the possible spreading of the coronavirus, community-level organisations are teaming up to provide food, water, and supplements to those in the areas.

But stay at home orders are a problem for many as starvation is more frightening than the virus and 90% of residents in the slum communities still need to leave for work each day to keep food on the table. The daily average income for those in the slums is around 120 to 150 baht. The CCSA yesterday declared that is is focusing on containing major Covid clusters in 3 key Bangkok communities – the Klong Toey ‘slums’, Bon Kai in Pathumwan and Ban Khing in the Bang Kae district, on the west side of the Chao Phraya.

Today’s nationwide Covid update includes compiling the regional totals from yesterday, with a total of 27 new Covid-related deaths and 2,044 new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours. The numbers continue a statistically consistent rise in the number of Covid infections over the past 2 weeks.

Meanwhile, talking about Phuket’s plans to open in July, the Tourism and Sports Minister, Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, said yesterday that the number of new cases on the island must reach zero before the government can contemplate the ‘Sandbox’ plan for no-quarantine travel.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Phuket visitor Covid-19 rapid antigen testing may end May 15

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: Covid-19 rapid tests may be discontinued in Phuket. (via Wikimedia)

In a live broadcast, Phuket’s Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong said officials will consider discontinuing Covid-19 rapid antigen testing for people arriving into Phuket after May 15. The interview from the Phuket Check Point at Tha Chatchai yesterday seems to contradict a recent statement from the governor launching additional rapid testing from today.

Entry to Phuket since April 22 has been limited for travellers from red zone provinces, requiring proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test within the last 72 hours. Anyone arriving without either of these would be screened on the spot with rapid antigen tests. Though originally offered for 300 baht per person, controversy arose over Thailand’s 2-tier pricing as it was announced that testing would be free for Thai people and 500 baht for foreigners.

The National Health Security Office provided 40 billion baht for testing in Phuket, allowing free testing for nationals, but as that funding is used up, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew announced that the testing will no longer be free for Thai people after May 15. Phuket does not have the budget for free rapid antigen testing so they will likely be forced to require payment after that date.

The current testing has seen a decline in positive Covid-19 infections, not finding any new cases for several days, prompting the government to rethink whether the current system of rapid testing those who are not vaccinated or holding a recent negative test certificate is worth the money spent.

Over 40,000 people have been tested since the program began April 22 until the current figures on May 5, with only 22 covid infections identified. Furthermore, 5 of those infections turned out to be false positives.

The vice-governor conceded that Phuket has Covid-19 outbreak problems with growing infections every day, but explains that the infections are from within the community and not from outside visitors. The latest infections stem in large part from gambling get-togethers without proper Covid-19 safety.

As of now, the rapid antigen testing will continue until the May 15 cut off, but government officials are still debating whether to continue testing and whether funding will exist for it after that date.

The NHSO has recently hinted that they will approve more funds to continue testing, a signal that had not been received before the governor’s announcement on Wednesday about the rapid antigen testing.

The vice-governor stressed that the situation is constantly evolving and that new information it’s shared frequently, and often out of local control. He urges everyone to pay attention to forthcoming announcements.

SOURCE: The Phuket News

 

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