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SUNDAY, December 03, 2023

Crowds at polling stations may spark new Covid wave, warns virologist

Crowds at polling stations may spark new Covid wave, warns virologist
TUESDAY, May 02, 2023

Thai authorities should be prepared for a new wave of Covid-19 infections after the upcoming general election on May 14, top virologist Dr Yong Poovorawan said.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Dr Yong explained that Covid-19 had become a seasonal disease and will possibly start spreading during the wet season.

Dr Yong, who is head of Chulalongkorn University’s Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology, said he also expects infections to surge when schools reopen in mid-May.

Most Covid infections found in Thailand recently are strains of the XBB sub-variant family, especially XBB.1.5. However, some cases of the XBB.1.16 have also been found in Thailand and experts believe it can be transmitted more efficiently.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classified XBB.1.16 as a “variant under monitoring” on March 30 after it was detected for the first time in January in India.

XBB1.16 produces similar symptoms to other sub-variants, like fever, coughing, sore throat and runny nose, though some patients have also complained of conjunctivitis or “sticky eyes”.

Dr Yong said the best way for people, especially those in the high-risk group, to protect themselves will be to get booster shots. Though a Covid-19 vaccine does not prevent infection, it reduces the severity of symptoms greatly, he said.

He also advised people to get Covid boosters annually, just like they get common flu shots every year. The boosters should most definitely be taken before the arrival of the rainy season, he said.

Covid-19 vaccines currently being administered in Thailand are the mRNA bivalent type that comprises both the original Wuhan strain and the Omicron strain, Dr Yong said.

He added that booster shots are optional for healthy people below the age of 60 because the current sub-variants are far less dangerous. However, those in the high-risk group, such as those above 60 and suffering from chronic conditions, should definitely get booster shots, he said.

The virologist also pointed out that the true number of infections is not visible because the authorities only take into account the number of hospitalisations and deaths from Covid.