Dealing with Omicron
While it's a real concern that another letter from the Greek alphabet has entered the popular lexicon with Omicron becoming a coronavirus variant of concern, the situation at present calls for a wait-and-see approach.
There is no reason for panic, nor is there any need for extraordinary measures. At present, the same universal protection is still being recommended against the new variant which has spread to more than 50 countries including Thailand. Epidemiologists around the world appear in agreement that it's too early to tell how serious the Omicron threat is. Dr Anthony Fauci, the chief US medical adviser, has suggested that based on early indications it may be less dangerous than Delta which remains the prevalent variant globally.
However, Omicron is spreading fast and medical professionals have said it could be several times more contagious than Delta while predicting it will soon be the dominant strain causing infections around the world. Another worrying sign is there is some evidence that the variant can reinfect people more readily, both those who have been vaccinated or those who had already contracted the virus, according to The New York Times.
The good news is early reports have shown that the variant has caused only mild symptoms and no deaths have yet been associated with it.
It's hoped that more information about how the new strain behaves, how virulent and dangerous it is will become available over the next few weeks as epidemiological studies are underway to determine its severity. The World Health Organization (WHO) has yet to make a determination about Omicron and according to its most recent update, it's not yet clear if Omicron is more transmissible than other strains. It's also not clear either whether its infection causes more or less severe symptoms, WHO said. Meanwhile, public health experts are playing it safe, telling people to stay vigilant throughout the festive period.
Locally, business leaders are understandably agitated as they urge the government not to impose another lockdown after the first case of Omicron was detected in Thailand on Monday. The economy is showing signs of improvement following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, including the reopening of the nation's borders last month. Another lockdown would be disastrous for business operators who've been struggling to stay afloat over the past two years. The Thai economy would not survive yet another wave of severe restrictions and a dearth in public spending, business leaders have suggested.
The business community has encouraged the public not to panic but to sensibly maintain their guard.
It's reassuring that the Public Health Ministry has so far kept people well informed about the country's sole Omicron case, how the situation is projected to progress and what the government is doing to protect citizens. While the authorities are under no illusions that the country will be exempt from further Omicron cases, the Public Health Ministry did not hesitate to recommend the government not replace the more time-consuming RT-PCR test with rapid antigen kits even if the latter would better facilitate tourist arrivals. The precaution remains necessary at a time when little can be ascertained about the variant.
The WHO has suggested that countries enhance surveillance, carry on Covid-19 public health measures, increase medical facilities in case of a surge in new infections and ramp up vaccination efforts. Such measures should suffice until more information becomes available.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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