Govt urges uptake of booster shots as Omicron cases rise

Govt urges uptake of booster shots as Omicron cases rise

Fireworks explode over the Chao Phraya River during the New Year celebrations in Bangkok, Jan 1, 2022. Health officials fear a surge in Covid-19 cases after people return to work after their holidays. (Reuters photo)
Fireworks explode over the Chao Phraya River during the New Year celebrations in Bangkok, Jan 1, 2022. Health officials fear a surge in Covid-19 cases after people return to work after their holidays. (Reuters photo)

The Health Ministry on Tuesday called on people to come forward to get booster vaccinations after reporting cases of the highly contagious Omicron coronavirus variant had more than doubled over the holiday period.

The country has recorded 2,062 cases of the Omicron variant so far, health official Supakit Sirilak told a news conference, up from 740 cases before the holidays.

Health authorities have warned of the risk of a surge of infections after the holidays when people travelled home and gathered at restaurants for celebrations.

Out of the Omicron infections, 1,105 were among foreign arrivals with the remainder in those who had come into contact with arrivals, he said.

Up to now, Thailand has vaccinated 64.1% of the estimated 72 million people in the country with two doses, government data shows, while officials said only 9.8% had received a third booster shot.

"Please come get your booster vaccines at hospitals near your homes," Dr Opas said, noting anyone who had received their second dose before November would be eligible.

"A fourth dose will be given to medical personnel, frontline workers and risk groups three months after their third shots," he said.

Alarmed by the spread of Omicron, the government last month suspended the "Test & Go" travel scheme that allowed vaccinated tourists to skip quarantine and an official said people who had previously registered for the scheme must enter by Jan 10.

A so-called "sandbox" programme, which requires visitors to remain in a specific location for seven days but allows them free movement outside of their accommodation, was also suspended in all places except for the resort island of Phuket.

Thailand has reported a total of 2.2 million infections and 21,750 coronavirus-related fatalities. 

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