BANGKOK: Thailand reported on Monday (May 10) its first case of the B1617 variant of the coronavirus – a variant that was first detected in India.
The case is a pregnant Thai woman who travelled with her sons from Pakistan to Thailand last month, according to the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA).
“Today, the Department of Disease Control reported a case of a 42-year-old Thai woman. She is 25 weeks pregnant and travelled from Pakistan to Thailand on Apr 24, with a stopover in Dubai. She travelled with her three sons aged four, six and eight,” said CCSA assistant spokesperson Apisamai Srirangsan in a briefing on Monday.
The family was placed in state quarantine and she tested positive for the B1617 strain shortly after her arrival, she added.
“The whole-genome sequencing method was used in the tests by the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Diseases Clinical Center of Chulalongkorn Hospital, which found and confirmed the Indian variant B1617,” Apisamai said.
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India first reported the B1617 strain of the coronavirus in October. According to CCSA, Thailand’s Department of Disease Control has been closely monitoring trips from India. Since May 1, the Thai foreign ministry has also suspended its issuance of certificates of entry (COEs) to foreign nationals wishing to travel from India to Thailand.
On Monday, the foreign ministry announced it will also suspend issuing COEs to foreigners from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal from May 10.
It also stipulated that foreigners who transited through India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal will not be permitted to enter Thailand.
“I would like to reiterate that the measure is only temporary as the Thai government is trying its best to prevent the emergence and spread of a new variant in the country. This measure will be applied only temporarily to all foreign nationals departing from the above-mentioned three countries,” said its spokesperson Tanee Sangrat.
“However, Thai nationals, diplomats on mission in Thailand and their families and permanent residents traveling from these countries are still able to return to Thailand if they so wish.”
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Thailand is battling a third wave of COVID-19, which spread from clusters at nightclubs, concerts and parties last month. On Monday, CCSA reported 1,630 new cases, including eight patients from abroad.
According to Apisamai, all flights from India to Thailand are exclusively for repatriating Thai nationals and there will be four such flights this month. Currently, there are worries among health officials about a possible mutation of the coronavirus in Thailand, she added.
The latest wave of COVID-19 has infected more than 56,000 people and killed 327 patients in Thailand since Apr 1. On Monday, CCSA reported 29,376 people are being treated at hospitals and that 1,151 of them are in critical condition.
Following the recent spikes in cases, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha pushed for more procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, with an aim to inoculate 70 per cent of the population, or about 50 million people within this year.
The country requires 100 million doses to create herd immunity against the coronavirus. So far, the government has already secured 63 million doses, including 61 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will be produced in the country.
According to Prayut, Thailand is scheduled to receive 35 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine from China this month for medical personnel and those in areas at risk.
Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry also proposed more vaccine procurement plans, including 5 million to 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 5 million to 10 million doses from each of the Sputnik V, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.