Virologist: UK Covid variant may have arrived from Cambodia

Virologist: UK Covid variant may have arrived from Cambodia

Residents of Thong Lor, in Bangkok wait for a swab test on Thursday. The area is the centre of a new Covid-19 cluster now spreading rapidly to other parts of the country. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Residents of Thong Lor, in Bangkok wait for a swab test on Thursday. The area is the centre of a new Covid-19 cluster now spreading rapidly to other parts of the country. (Photo by Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

The UK Covid variant now spreading through Thailand might have been brought into the country from Cambodia, either by Thais crossing the border or migrant workers, a noted virologist said on Thursday.

Prof Yong Pooverawan, of the faculty of medicine, Chulalongkorn University, said the UK variant was found in people from India and China who entered Cambodia in February.

The first cases were reported there on Feb 15, he said in a post on his Facebook page. 

The UK variant had spread in Cambodia since then.

Cambodia has reported 2,915 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 22 deaths, according to the worldometer website.

A spokeswoman for the Cambodian Health Ministry, Or Vandine, on March 11 expressed concerned about the spread of the UK strain there. "The fast-transmitting UK variant is now active in Cambodia, especially in Phnom Penh," VOA quoted her as saying.

Thai health authorities reported the first local transmission of the same variant on Wednesday. It was found in a cluster of infections spreading rapidly from pubs in Bangkok's Thong Lor area.

"I have no idea how it slipped into Thailand, and through our quarantine programme," Dr Yong told reporters on Wednesday.

The rapid spread of the latest outbreak to provinces far from Bangkok has led to authorities announcing they will shut down all entertainment venues in 41 provinces for at least two weeks, starting on Friday.

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