Covid-19 cases surge in Thai tourism hotspots post-holidays

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has urged health authorities in major tourism destinations to closely monitor the number of Covid-19 cases, as new infections continue to surge following the holidays. The instruction came after the Department of Disease Control (DDC) presented data on caseloads from April 16 to 22, indicating a rise in Covid infections.

The prime minister is particularly concerned about individuals in the “608” group, comprising senior citizens, people with chronic illnesses, and medical personnel and frontline workers, according to government spokesperson Anucha Burapachaisri. Individuals within this group are advised to receive a booster jab to keep their Covid vaccinations up to date. The Public Health Ministry has also been tasked with monitoring the spread of the XBB.1.16 sub-strain of the Omicron variant.

Projections from the DDC suggest that the number of new cases this week will double from those recorded last week, particularly in tourist hotspots such as Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, and Chon Buri. As cited by the Department of Medical Sciences, XBB.1.16 is a recombinant or hybrid strain of BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75 sublineages of the novel coronavirus. Although more transmissible and immune-evasive than XBB.1.5, there is no evidence that it causes severe symptoms.

The Public Health Ministry anticipates a further surge in Covid cases throughout the upcoming rainy season, starting next month. In response, the Ministry has updated its vaccination guidelines to recommend a Covid booster shot once a year, preferably before the rainy season begins. Any type of vaccine is deemed appropriate, and individuals should receive a booster jab at least three months after their previous shot or recovery from a previous infection. It is considered safe to receive an influenza vaccination simultaneously.

Caution is still advised, with people urged to wear masks in crowded places or on public transport.

Tares Krassanairawiwong, the DDC’s director-general, reported that new caseloads have increased after Songkran. There were 1,088 new infections this week, equating to approximately 155 new cases per day – a 2.5-fold increase compared to the previous week. This number is likely to continue growing over the next fortnight. However, Thailand is said to have ample medical supplies and hospital beds to accommodate patients with severe Covid symptoms.

Individuals who are immunocompromised can opt for a long-acting antibody (LAAB) jab at hospitals and medical facilities throughout the country. The National Committee on Communicable Diseases announced on Thursday that individuals in the 608 group are eligible for a free annual Covid vaccine shot at state-owned hospitals, which can be administered alongside a flu vaccine, starting this year.

The XBB variant sub-strains have been responsible for recent spikes in Covid cases worldwide, and the World Health Organization has consequently reclassified the XBB.1.16 sub-strain from a “variant under monitoring” to a “variant of interest.” On Tuesday, the Department of Medical Sciences confirmed six new cases of the Omicron XBB.1.16 sub-variant and one case of XBB.1.16.1 in Thailand.

Coronavirus (Covid-19)Thailand News

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.