Race to beat Covid variants

Race to beat Covid variants

The government is keeping a close watch on novel variants of the Covid-19 virus, in particular the strains which were first detected in India and South Africa, with the Department of Medical Sciences racing to complete the genetic sequencing of new cases to monitor the progression of the nation's outbreak.

The B.1.1.7 variant -- also known as the Alpha strain first detected in the United Kingdom -- is responsible for the bulk of the infections found in Thailand, said Supakij Sirilak, director-general of the Department of Medical Sciences.

About 90% of cases in the current wave were caused by the Alpha variant, Dr Supakij said, noting that the findings are based on the department's genetic sequencing of 3,964 cases.

"It is the Alpha variant which is spreading in the country, but another variant, the Delta [variant first found in India] has recently emerged and infected more than 230 people," he said.

According to Dr Supakij, the Delta variant, which was first detected at a construction workers' camp in Laksi district in Bangkok, has also been found in Udon Thani, Nonthaburi, Phitsanulok, Saraburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani and Samut Songkhram.

According to Dr Supakij, genome sequencing and genomic surveillance play an important role in preventing the coronavirus form spreading but not every country has the capacity to carry out the tests involved.

"So, in our country, Alpha is the dominant variant. We've detected the Delta variant and are working to contain it. As for the Beta variant, it is limited to Tak Bai district," he said.

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