'New variant' risk, warns top virologist

'New variant' risk, warns top virologist

Govt urged to contain outbreak

A prominent virologist has warned that efforts to contain Covid-19 must be intensified before a "Thai variant" mutation of the virus emerges.

Dr Yong Poovorawan, chief of the Center of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, posted on his Facebook page that concerned agencies should step up measures against Covid-19 due to the particularly contagious nature of the British variant currently spreading across the nation.

"Proactive measures to keep Covid-19 from spreading widely are needed before the virus has a chance to mutate," he said.

The virus usually took hold in big cities first before spreading to smaller towns, districts, sub-districts and villages.

Limiting people's movements was one of the solutions to stop the pandemic, the doctor said.

"More stringent measures, including proactive screening, are needed from now on to effectively contain the spread of the virus."

Everyone with positive results must be admitted to field hospitals or other designated places, while only those with serious symptoms should be admitted to hospitals for treatment, the doctor suggested, adding it is important to separate the infected as much as possible. His remarks come amid signs some are reluctant to seek help in hospitals for fear of gettting an infection.

Dr Yong also suggested the government make sure that the prices of Covid-19 tests were reasonable and similar across the country.

"Despite Thailand's high capacity to perform Covid-19 tests, some hospitals are limiting the number of daily tests carried out saying they have run out of the necessary chemicals," the doctor said.

Dr Yong cited India where the pandemic was out of control as an example, saying that when infection becomes that widespread, mutations are often a consequence.

"India had double mutations of a Covid-19 strain which infected people more easily. This variant, which could limit vaccine efficacy, posed a great threat to humans," he said.

Dr Vip Viprakasit from the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, said yesterday at the Public Health Ministry that vaccines with acceptable efficacy were crucial to the containment of the outbreak.

On concerns over the safety of the Sinovac vaccine after neurological side-effects were reported among seven vaccine recipients, the doctor insisted the side-effects were stress-related responses.

Dr Vip said he personally recommended vaccination since Covid-19 vaccine's efficacy outweighed the risk of side-effects.

Meanwhile, the Thai Chamber of Commerce has asked business operators who are interested in helping the government expedite the procurement of vaccines to register via www.thaichamber.org.

The move came after the chief executives of 40 companies on Tuesday rallied behind the government by launching a campaign to assist in the acquisition of vaccines. This is to help to pull the country out of its economic malaise as soon as possible.

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