Sources are pointing out that no decision has yet been taken on the request and that certificates of entry continue to be issued to UK travellers applying to travel to Thailand. It comes as a leading UK medical expert, who worked on the AstraZeneca vaccine, has warned, in the last 24 hours, that while he has no fears about the UK strain, he is concerned about a South African mutation which may well be immune to new worldwide vaccines.
It is being reported that the Ministry of Public Health has asked the Covid-19 Situation Administration to halt the issuance of certificates of entry to travellers from the UK after health officials confirmed a case of the B117 or the ‘Kent’ strain of the Covid-19 virus detected among a four-member family from the Southeast region of the United Kingdom staying in the Alternative Quarantine system in Thailand. One of Thailand’s top virologists, Dr Yong Poovorawan, confirmed the cases over the weekend and explained the nature of the new strain publicly. He explicitly stated that there was no cause for alarm. The UK strain is believed to be similar to that found in Myanmar and among illegal migrants in the conflagration of the disease in Thailand that erupted before Christmas.
Sources on Monday were emphasising that UK travellers to Thailand were still arriving in the kingdom with certificates of entry and subject to 14 days quarantine after reports emerged that the Ministry of Public Health had asked the Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to temporarily block the issuance of permissions for UK visitors to travel to Thailand.
The move, if implemented, would be another blow to the tourism industry which is now reliant on travellers using the Alternative Quarantine Scheme which is keeping a limited number of high-end luxury hotels afloat right now.
However, it is not thought that any decision has been made by the influential government unit chaired by Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha.
Bookings not as strong for Alternative Quarantine
Reports over the weekend have suggested that this once lucrative sector during the Covid-19 emergency with bookings at 70 to 80% is now beginning to see reduced demand due to the severity of outbreaks of Covid-19 in both Thailand and countries of departure.
The United Kingdom is, at present, suffering a dark winter from the virus with nearly 55,000 cases reported yesterday and 453 deaths with one day recently bringing 984 mortalities.
Britain is also believed to be the source of a new variant of the disease, identified as B117 by a top Thai virologist and which caused some European and Asian countries to temporarily shut down all travel to and from the UK before Christmas for a short interval.
Family of four, two parents and children, from Kent arrived in Thailand on a flight on December 21st
Now it has been revealed that, over the Christmas period, a family of four from the UK, two parents and children, tested positive for the disease while in quarantine. They had entered Thailand on December 21st and are believed to be from Kent.
Disease Control chief said the mutated strain is faster at spreading and linked to the Myanmar G-strain
The case was referred to in a briefing by Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, the Department of Disease Control chief, who explained that every passenger on board the flight from the UK to Thailand with the family had been traced and examined by government officials while still in quarantine.
He pointed out the new emergent strain of the virus in the UK is similar to the one seen in Myanmar’s devastating outbreak which has been responsible for the large climb in cases in Samut Sakhon province among Myanmar workers which came to light in mid-December and has contributed to Thailand’s growing second Covid-19 wave of infection which, on Monday, saw 745 new cases, a daily record.
‘B117 is similar to the G-strain from Myanmar in terms of it being fast-spreading,’ Dr Opas disclosed to reporters.
Thailand’s top virologist explained the new mutated strain on social media and assured the public
This was also confirmed over the weekend by Dr Yong Poovorawan, one of Thailand’s most respected experts in virology and Head of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine.
On social media, he explained the characteristics of the new B117 strain while assuring the public that there was no cause for alarm. He said that a mutation of the ‘protein spike’ had made this variation capable of attaching itself more easily to human cells.
He did suggest that authorities must now pay more particular attention to UK visitors entering the country.
Cases of this variant have already been reported in Singapore and Taiwan which has probably the world’s best record in dealing with the Covid 19 outbreak.
UK expert Sir John Bell expresses some concern over the South African mutation of the disease and the efficacy of new vaccines to protect against it
Covid-19 is a classified Sars Cov-2 virus or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus which was first identified in China, officially sometime in December 2019. These types of virus are known to mutate regularly.
Most researchers and medical experts believe that the UK strain or ‘Kent’ strain, linked with its origin in southeast England, is not more severe or likely to resist the vaccines currently approved to break the virus outbreak worldwide by giving people immunity from infection.
However, in the last 24 hours, UK medical expert, Sir John Bell, who is regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and who helped developed the AstraZeneca vaccine which will be used and manufactured here in Thailand, has suggested that he has deep concerns about a mutated strain that has also emerged in South Africa.
‘The mutations associated with the South African form are really pretty substantial changes in the structure of the protein,’ he said on Time Radio, a digital radio station owned by Ruper Murdoch’s News UK and operated jointly by the Wireless Radio Group, the Sunday Times and Times newspaper in the United Kingdom. ‘My gut feeling is the vaccine will be still effective against the Kent strain. I don’t know about the South African strain, there’s a big question mark about that.’