Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Confusion reigns over the effectiveness of a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine due to be rolled out in Thailand next month. Thailand has ordered 2 million doses of the Sinovac Biotech vaccine.

The rollout of this particular vaccine among high-risk groups in Indonesia will start this week. However, questions now hang over the vaccine’s efficacy rate, originally reported as 78% in trials in Brazil but more recently downgraded to just over 50%. In total, 4 different rates of effectiveness have been published.

In Indonesia data from a local trial indicates an efficacy rate of 65%. However, with only 1,620 participants, the trial is considered too small for the data to have much value. Last month, Turkey reported an efficacy rate of 91.25% in its trials, but the sample size was again deemed too small.

The largest trial of the Chinese vaccine has been in Brazil, with 13,000 participants. There are, however, 2 quite different efficacy rates have been reported.

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It’s not the first time there has been confusion over efficacy rates of the new vaccines, with AstraZeneca initially reporting 2 different rates depending on the dosage administered. The Chinese vaccine still meets the efficacy threshold required for regulatory approval, at over 50%.

The Office of the Narcotics Control Board says Thailand is being used as a transit hub for gangs smuggling ketamine into the Kingdom from Taiwan and China.

The drug is then destined for re-export to places like Hong Kong and Malaysia, where it can fetch high retail prices. But they say the use within Thailand is on the up too, and that it’s becoming more prevalent in areas with a lot of nightlife venues.

This week, 7 Bangkok users died from a new variant, known as “K powdered milk” and includes a cocktail of illicit drugs.

Officials says drug dealers are now providing ketamine at substantial discounts in order to hook customers and claim the drug is being produced in India, China, and Myanmar. Drug enforcement agencies in countries on the Mekong River are working together to share knowledge on the trade and smuggling operations. They claim the drugs are being smuggled through border areas in the northern province of Chiang Mai and the north-eastern provinces of Nong Khai, Nakhon Phanom and Bung Kan.

In the last few days police arrested 4 more people suspected of trafficking the new K-based drug cocktail which is said to be linked to 7 deaths in Bangkok over last weekend.

The Association of Thai Travel Agents is urging the government to do away with the mandatory 14 day quarantine for vaccinated foreign arrivals by the third quarter of this year.

The president of the ATTA says 30% of 10,000 inbound tourism companies have had to close for good due to the financial devastation caused by the government’s restrictions and border closure.

He adds that a further 50% have closed temporarily, with only 20% of inbound tourism companies still operating. Those still in business have survived by shifting their focus to domestic tourists but are now suffering as a result of the resurgence of Covid-19 and a risk-averse domestic travel sentiment. He says, in order to help them survive, the government must focus on getting the second wave under control by next month and bring cases of local transmission down into double digits.

He also mentioned that, with vaccination programs already underway in many countries around the world, tourists who can prove they’ve been vaccinated should be exempt from mandatory quarantine.

At this stage the Thai government has foreshadowed that even people vaccinated against Covid-19 will still have to do the 14 day quarantine until more data can be collected about the efficiency of the various vaccines.

And some local Covid-19 updates… 157 new Covid-19 infections were reported today, well down on the daily totals over the past week.

There are now 3,981 active Covid-19 cases in Thailand. 90 of the new cases were local transmissions, 42 cases were detected in proactive testing.

One of the cases was a 3 month old baby in Bangkok who tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday, the youngest case in the new wave of infections.

And a major wet market in Bangkok, the Klong Toey Market, has closed for cleaning after a vendor tested positive. The market will reopen on Saturday. Health officials say she came in close contact with 10 people. Those people have been isolated.

And back to where the current wave kicked off, the central province of Samut Sakhon, provincial officials have announced the opening of a fourth field hospital by this Friday. The facility consists of 2 buildings with 350 beds to treat both asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic cases. Nation Thailand reports that it is located in the Nadee area of Muang district.

More than 180 migrant workers have finished their 14-day quarantine and been released from the first field hospital, which was opened in the Central seafood Market where this outbreak first began. A total of 472 patients who were in quarantine have now been discharged.

Since the latest resurgence was detected on December 20, Samut Sakhon has recorded a total of 3,341 infections.

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