The Ministry of Public Health will ask the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to defer the entry of British visitors to the country after the fast-spreading B117 strain of Covid-19 was found in four British nationals entering Thailand on Dec 21.
Department of Disease Control chief Opas Karnkawinpong said on Sunday all passengers who were on board the same flight as the four and anyone who had come into contact with them had been located, tested and found to be clear of the virus.
Dr Opas urged the public not to panic as Thailand is familiar with he fast-spreading Covid-19 strain -- known as G-strain -- found in Myanmar migrant workers. "B117 is similar to the G-strain from Myanmar in terms of it being fast-spreading," Dr Opas said.
The four English patients are family members -- parents and two children -- from Kent. They have been placed in a hospital's negative pressure room to prevent transmission and will not be released until medical officials test and clear them of Covid-19 risk, said Dr Yong Poovorawan, a chief at the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Medicine.
The centre has been collecting genetic data from Covid-19 patients for research, according to Dr Yong -- one of the country's top virologists -- who reported that the genetic variants found in the four patients are of the B117 strain which has spread rapidly in the UK recently.
Dr Yong wrote on his Facebook page that Thais do not need to be alarmed but warned the authority must pay more attention to English visitors.
It was reported that Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease Covid-19, mutates regularly.
For B117, mutations that affect the "spike protein" on the virus surface attach to human cells faster, Dr Yong wrote.
B117 has already been found in several countries, including a few in Asia, including Singapore and Taiwan, a country with very low infection cases.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health insisted it would not ban the private sector from importing Covid-19 vaccines but insisted the vaccines must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Department of Medical Science director-general Supakit Sirilak said all imported vaccines must gain departmental approval to protect the safety of consumers.