Dept warns Omicron could surge after NY

Dept warns Omicron could surge after NY

Mild symptoms will mean self-isolation

A health worker conducts mass testing in Bang Rak district, Bangkok, last Thursday in a bid to contain Omicron cases. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)
A health worker conducts mass testing in Bang Rak district, Bangkok, last Thursday in a bid to contain Omicron cases. (Photo: Somchai Poomlard)

Wary of a potential surge in Omicron Covid-19 cases after the Christmas and New Year celebrations, the Department of Medical Services (DMS) is urging people to strictly comply with preventive measures to keep a lid on the pandemic.

"I must admit the Omicron variant appears to be spreading faster than Delta," DMS director-general Somsak Akksilp said on Tuesday.

If infected people show mild symptoms, they can be treated in isolation at home, Dr Somsak said.

A recent virology report indicated that the new variant can cause breakthrough infections. Despite this, vaccinations can help reduce the severity of the infection, and anti-Covid molnupiravir and paxlovid pills are still considered effective.

However the best form of protection is complying with Covid-19 prevention measures, Dr Somsak said.

He said the severity of the new variant will depend on the number of infections, adding that no patients who have contracted it so far have needed to spend time in ICU rooms.

There has only been one fatality linked to Omicron to date, and that was in the United Kingdom, he said.

Wasun Chantratita, head of the Centre for Medical Genomics at Ramathibodi Hospital, cited data from the Gisaid global data science initiative on Monday, saying Omicron is the only variant that can pull genomic parts from other Covid variants to combine with its own genomic sequence to produce three amino acids.

Gisaid is a global science initiative established in 2008 that provides open access to genomic data of influenza viruses and the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19.

Omicron can be spread faster than other variants but it seems to trigger less severe symptoms including fever. That being said, no one knows what will happen if it successfully combines with genomic sequences from the Delta, Alpha or Beta variants, officials say.

Thailand has now confirmed 11 Omicron cases, all imported. Despite the decreasing number of Delta infections, the Department of Disease Control may use RT-PCR tests to confirm whether infected people have Delta or Omicron, Mr Wasun said.

For now, Thailand should hastily administer third doses or booster shots of vaccines, he said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the government has yet to decide whether current anti-Covid measures will be adjusted following the first death of a patient with Omicron in the UK.

Gen Prayut warned the public to avoid fake vaccine certificates as having one is a criminal offence, his spokesman said. All sectors must cooperate with Covid-free guidelines, he said.

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