6 June 2024

Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health has taken steps to cope with an anticipated upsurge in COVID-19 infections after the Songkran celebrations, as eight Omicron XBB.1.16 cases are found in the country.

Public Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Opart Karnkawinpong said today (Monday) that the rise in COVID-19 cases during the Songkran festival was not a surprise, noting that from April 9th  to 15th, 435 cases, or an average of 62 cases a day, were admitted to hospital for treatment, including 30 cases of lung infections with 19 requiring ventilators. There were two related deaths during the period.

The first step undertaken by the Public Health Ministry is to urge the public to get COVID-19 vaccination in May. Those who are due to receive their flu vaccine can get the two vaccines at the same time.

He suggested that those who have reduced immunity get a Long Acting Anti-Body (LAAB) combination for prevention and treatment of symptomatic disease.

The second step is to encourage people to wear face masks in public venues, such as hospitals and homes for the elderly, and in group activities with elderly people and people with underlying conditions.

The third step is to conduct a rapid antigen test if one has a fever, cough or sore throat, said Dr. Opart, adding that, if the condition worsens, such as experiencing breathing difficulty or fatigue, the person should see a doctor immediately.

He said that state hospitals have been instructed to make medicine and beds available to accommodate patients who require hospitalisation.

All hospitals have also been instructed to collect specimens from patients who die from COVID-19, for sending to the Medical Sciences Department for analysis.

Every province has been ordered to establish teams of investigators to look into every serious COVID-19 case, to discover the source of infection and to assess the risks.

Meanwhile, Dr. Supakit Sirilak, director-general of the Medical Sciences Department, said that the dominant Omicron infections in Thailand are still the XBB.1.5 and XBB.1.9.1 sub-variants, but more XBB.1.16 sub-variant cases are being found, which is in line with the worldwide trend, especially in India where the sub-variant is spreading very fast and will soon become the dominant sub-variant in India and the rest of the world.

He noted, however, that the XBB.1.16 sub-variant has not, to date, been found to be more serious or more capable in evading vaccines than other sub-variants.

In Thailand, eight patients have been infected with the XBB.1.15 sub-variant so far and, in one of the eight cases, the virus has mutated to the XBB.1.16.1 sub-variant, according to the Centre for Medical Genomics at the Faculty of Medicine of Ramathibodi Hospital.