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UPDATE: What we know about “Omicron,” new travel restrictions to Thailand

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Stock photo by Mufid Majnun for Unsplash

An increasing number of countries are taking precautionary steps to halt international flights. There are already many travel bans from several southern African nations following the discovery of a newly identified Covid-19 variant called “Omicron”.

Is Omicron in Thailand?

The Omicron Covid-19 variant has not been detected in Thailand, according to the director-general of the Department of Disease Control, assuring the Thai public that the mutated strain of the virus is not “travelling” into the country by tourists. Dr Opas Karnkawinpong said that all “sandbox” visitors are being closely and stringently monitored by health authorities.

“All 1,007 travellers from South Africa who recently arrived in Thailand have tested negative for Covid-19.”

Has Thailand issued travel restrictions?

The Thailand Pass website now says…. “the issuance of Thailand Pass for travelers from the following 8 countries will be temporarily suspended. Those countries include Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

A spokesperson for the CCSA says the country’s Covid task force held an emergency meeting over the weekend in response to the new variant. Under the new measures set by the CCSA, those travelling from the 8 specified countries between now and December 1, who already have a Thailand Pass QR code, will be allowed to enter, but will need quarantine for 14 days at an approved hotel or facility. They will also need to undergo 3 RT-PCR Covid-19 tests before they are released from quarantine.

Those travelling from the specified countries, with the exception of Thais, will not be allowed to enter Thailand after December 1.

Those travelling from other countries in Africa will need to undergo the 14 day quarantine.

The restrictions will be in effect until further notice.

What is the new variant?

Omicron (B.1.1.529) was first identified in South Africa, but it is unclear where it came from or whether it was brought in from another African country or from elsewhere.

Scientists have already identified that Omicron is “much more likely to mutate” in areas with poor vaccination rates and high transmission rates. Vaccine reluctance and low immunisation rates, according to scientists, are the greatest threats to additional mutations in the future, beyond Omicron.

The World Health Organisation has designated the Omicron Covid strain as a “variant of concern” last Friday and said multiple studies are underway as advisors continue to monitor the variant. It was discovered on November 8, but it wasn’t announced as a novel mutation until last Wednesday in South Africa.

Where has it been detected?

As of midday Thai time today, the “Omicron” had been found in at least 14 nations; South Africa, Botswana, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and Belgium.

What countries have closed borders?

Japan and Israel governments have once again closed their borders, banning foreigners from entering their countries. According to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida today, Japan would temporarily halt new foreign immigration beginning tomorrow.

At least 44 countries have imposed temporary restrictions on travel from the southern Africa region over the Omicron variant, including Singapore and Thailand.

 

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