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Prevent Omicron outbreak by getting jabs, washing hands, maintaining distance, advises expert virologist


Dr Yong Poovorawan, an expert virologist from Chulalongkorn University, offered advice in a Facebook post on Friday on how people can prepare for the Omicron variant.

He said that though Thailand will not be able to escape Omicron, especially if it has spread worldwide, it can take steps to delay its arrival. He listed three factors that can prevent an Omicron outbreak, namely:

• Vaccination: Though the vaccines available at present may not be as effective against the Omicron variant, they will still prevent severe symptoms, hospitalisation or death. Data from South Africa shows that 90 per cent of Omicron patients in hospitals are unvaccinated. Thailand’s vaccine stocks should be enough to provide double shots and a booster to everybody.

• Diagnosis: Infections should be diagnosed quickly and patients isolated immediately to control transmission.

• Protection: People should continue strictly adhering to Covid-19 prevention measures, including washing hands frequently, maintaining hygienic habits, wearing masks and social distancing.

The virologist said sharing knowledge, ensuring transparency and obeying rules will help prevent an outbreak.

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He also said that the new variant may soon replace the Delta variant if it is more widely transmitted.

Dr Yong explained that initially in December 2019, the S (Serine) and L (Leucine) variants were discovered in China’s Wuhan city. The first variant detected in Thailand was the S variant. However, the more transmissible L variant spread across Europe, causing the S variant to disappear.

Then came the G (Glycine) variant, which spread even faster and replaced the L variant. The G variant sparked infections in Samut Sakhon in the second wave of Covid-19 in Thailand.

Then came the Alpha variant, which was brought into Thailand from a neighbouring country and spread quickly, replacing the G variant.

After that came the Delta variant, which was first detected in India. This variant was more transmissible than the Alpha variant and resulted in more severe symptoms. It is believed that this variant was brought into Thailand by construction workers and spread quickly. The Delta variant also spread very quickly globally because its infectious period is longer than other variants.

The Omicron variant, which was detected in South Africa on November 24, may spread quickly and replace the Delta variant.

The virologist pointed out that though this variant can enter the country through air, land and water, he believes closely monitoring Thailand’s large natural border can help prevent an Omicron outbreak.

Published : December 03, 2021

By : THE NATION