Travel ban is right move

Travel ban is right move

The government's decision to ban travel to Thailand by people from eight southern African countries where a new Covid-19 strain was found is the right move but many more things are needed to prevent the country from being hit by the new and dangerous variant.

The World Health Organization classified the B.1.1.529 strain as a "variant of concern" and named it "Omicron". Scientists are trying to find out how quickly the variant can spread and if it is resistant to Covid-19 vaccines.

Following a similar move by several European countries, the Thai government announced on Saturday a travel ban from Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Besides southern African countries, the variant was also initially identified in Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

Meanwhile, Germany, Italy and the UK announced on Saturday that they had detected cases of the Omicron variant as well.

The government needs to be on "high alert" to curb the possible transmission of the Omicron variant as it recently announced reopening the country for foreign travellers from 63 countries and territories to entry without quarantine and further eased the entry rules last week.

With the government's latest Covid-19 policy, many people have let their guard down and some experts warn that higher infections could be seen next month or January. This is worrying if the new dangerous variant spreads in the country.

According to the Department of Disease Control (DDC), 1,007 travellers from southern African countries have entered the country since the reopening and none of them tested positive.

However, the government and health agencies should track and follow up those visitors to ensure they are still free from the new variant. Based on the case detected in Belgium, the infected person, who was reported to be a young adult woman, had developed symptoms 11 days after returning from a trip to Egypt via Turkey.

Land border restrictions for travel to the country need to be strictly imposed. The government should learn from how the Delta variant hit the country. It stemmed from land cross-border travel, where people are able to exploit loopholes in various restrictions to enter the country illegally. Such loopholes must be closed.

The economy has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic for almost two years and a recovery could take another two years before it returns to pre-Covid level.

People will no longer stand for suffering from lockdowns due to a failure to curb the situation.

Previously, the government placed its hope in anti-viral pills like molnupiravir developed by the US drug company Merck.

But new data shows the drug was less effective in cutting hospitalisations and deaths than previously reported.

The drugmaker said its pill showed a 30% reduction in hospitalisations and deaths, based on data from 1,433 patients. In October, its data showed a roughly 50% efficacy, based on data from 775 patients.

The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has created big challenges for the government to safeguard the well-being of its people.

The government must act quickly and do whatever it takes to mitigate the risk of transmission of the new Covid-19 variant.

The government must be ready to take decisive action to ban travel from more countries and impose stricter measures if needed.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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