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Superspreader Omicron cluster may lead to 30,000 daily Covid-19 infections

Neill Fronde

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FILE PHOTO: Omicron will likely create a big spike in Covid-19 infections in the coming months.

Thailand will likely see a surge in Covid-19 infections in the coming weeks as health authorities have classified the Omicron variant cluster in Kalasin as a superspreader event. The outbreak was identified on Christmas Eve in the Northeastern province and proliferated out to hundreds of infections sprawling throughout 11 provinces.

The cluster was traced to a couple returning from Belgium and visiting markets, bars and concerts before testing positive for Covid-19 and the Omicron variant. One of the bars the couple attended was singled out as having poor ventilation and being packed without Covid-19 safety measures like social distancing and mask-wearing.

Department of Disease Control Director-General Control Dr Opas Karnkawinpong is advising people to act with extreme caution and avoid places that are not following Covid-19 safety regulations.

“During the New Year, if you visit any place and it does not look safe, just don’t go.”

Covid-19 had been minimal in Thailand throughout 2020, but with the emergence of the Delta variant, the country was engulfed in infections, with daily new cases peaking in August well above 20,000. In the past week, daily infections have fallen all the way to 2,500 per day, but the Ministry of Health has a bleak forecast for the coming months, predicting spikes in Omicron variant leading to numbers as high as, or even higher, than the August peak figures.

Authorities have already tightened restrictions, suspending the Test & Go programme for international travellers and reinstating quarantines, though with Omicron already transmitting locally, it may not have as strong an effect as the government hopes for. Prediction models suggest that daily infections could hit up to 30,000 cases per day and deaths could climb to 160 people each day by March.

The Ministry of Public Health hopes that with preventative measures like more vaccination and testing as well as people practising social distancing and mask-wearing constantly, those numbers could be cut in half and peak sooner, topping out in February at 14,000 daily infections and less than 60 deaths per day.

SOURCE: Reuters

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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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