Dept slams claims virus came from Thailand

Dept slams claims virus came from Thailand

Checks on market bats 'show no link'

Customers visit pet shops at Chatuchak market in Bangkok last month. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Customers visit pet shops at Chatuchak market in Bangkok last month. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation on Wednesday dismissed news reports suggesting Thailand was the source of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it had conducted tests on various types of wildlife claimed to have contained the virus that causes the disease and found the claims were untrue.

The department was responding to Denmark's daily newspaper Politiken that published an article on Monday questioning whether Chatuchak Market was indeed "the place that brought the coronavirus to Wuhan".

The article quoted Danish epidemiologist Thea Kolsen Fischer, who was on a recent WHO fact-finding mission to China, as saying that Southeast Asia could be the source of the virus, the department said.

The department from time to time randomly tests all types of animals sold at Chatuchak Market, both imported and local, and had not found any creatures infected with Sars-CoV-2 as claimed, Thanya Netithammakul, the department's director-general said yesterday.

The last time the department conducted tests on animals at Chatuchak was on March 19 last year and no signs of the new coronavirus were found.

The department also responded to a previous news article by Russia's Sputnik news agency that also suggested a similar strain of the new coronavirus found in bats in Thailand appeared to resemble Sars-CoV-2.

Citing a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, the Russian news agency reported there are bats in Thailand with a new coronavirus that matches the one that causes Covid-19.

The new virus, known as RacCS203, was identified in the blood of five horseshoe bats in an artificial cave at a wildlife sanctuary in eastern Thailand, the report said.

Researchers at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok have conducted genomic sequencing on the virus and found that the virus shares 91.5% of the genetic code of Sars-CoV-2, the report said.

Citing results of the same study, jointly conducted by Chulalongkorn and Kasetsart universities and the department itself, the government insisted the coronavirus strain found in the bats doesn't cause any illnesses in humans despite its similarity to Sars-CoV-2.

Dr Chawetsan Namwat, director of the emergency disease and health hazards control division under the Department of Disease Control yesterday agreed the virus found in bats could not be transmitted to humans.

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