Vaccine-resistant strains in West and China threaten Thailand: virologist


Top virologist Dr Yong Poovorawan has urged the government to take action to defend Thailand against new Covid-19 variants spreading abroad. He spoke out after China announced it will lift travel restrictions on Sunday (January 8), prompting concern among countries worldwide.

So far, Japan, India, Italy, Malaysia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and the US have imposed tighter requirements including negative Covid tests on travellers from China, where infection rates are soaring. However, Thailand has not tightened rules for Chinese visitors, who were its biggest overseas market before the pandemic struck in 2020.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Yong said the severity of Covid-19 in Thailand had dropped over the past three years as people gained immunity via vaccination and infection.

However, new subvariants spreading in Europe, the US and China are more resistant to vaccines. Therefore, Thailand needed to know which Covid-19 variant is spreading in each country, Yong said.

While Omicron BA.2.75 is still dominant in Thailand, the BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 subvariants spreading fast in the West have higher vaccine resistance, though they do not cause more severe symptoms than previous strains, he said.

Meanwhile, Omicron BF.7 and BA.5.2 subvariants found in China are spreading in Japan, said Yong, citing data from Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun published on December 26.

Vaccine-resistant strains in West and China threaten Thailand: virologist

He said it would be impossible to prevent the spread of these new strains to Thailand unless all visitors were screened on arrival.

Instead, the best solution is to step up vaccination and hygiene guidelines and boost public awareness of the different strains and their dangers, Yong said.

Government agencies should also implement guidelines to address different Covid-19 species, their severity and their resistance to immunity, he added.

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