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Overnight RT-PCR tests may remain mandatory for visitors to Thailand


The Public Health Ministry is giving serious thought to keeping real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests mandatory for foreign arrivals to prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant.

“The ministry was initially planning to let foreign visitors use the ATK [antigen test kit] now that Thailand is opening more provinces,” Deputy Public Health Minister Dr Satit Pitutecha said on Monday.

“However, with the emergence of this new variant, we may have to put this plan on hold and continue making the RT-PCR test mandatory for all international visitors.”

Omicron, which was marked a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organisation (WHO) last week, is a new and potentially more contagious strain of Covid-19. The variant was detected on November 24 in South Africa from a sample collected on November 9.

Satit also said he has ordered agencies under the Department of Medical Sciences to find the most suitable and effective method of testing for the Omicron variant as soon as possible.

“Admittedly, no vaccine is effective against all variants of the virus,” he said. “But manufacturers are working to create vaccines that can efficiently fight virus mutations. The ministry has been monitoring the situation closely and will let you know as soon as a new, better vaccine becomes available.

“People should not panic over the new variant as the data on Omicron is not extensive enough, especially concerning the rate of transmission and symptoms in specific age groups,” he pointed out.

“Currently, no Omicron cases have been detected in Thailand as the authorities have immediately cancelled flights from high-risk countries. However, the variant may be brought in through natural channels and across borders with neighbouring countries, so everybody should be on alert.”

Published : November 29, 2021

By : THE NATION