A senior Thai public health official, on Monday, Dr Chawetsan Namwat, said his department had noted the mild symptoms being reported from the new Omicron variant. He said only 0.13% of over 122,000 foreign tourists who arrived in Thailand since November 1st had thus far tested positive for COVID-19.

Thai officials, on Monday, said they may defer a switch to antigen testing announced last Friday as details of the Omicron virus variant emerged over the weekend with cases detected in more countries globally. At the same time, the government has underlined that it is still committed to the wider reopening of the kingdom to foreign tourism with over 122,000 arrivals recorded up to Sunday since November 1st and may even increase the number of countries eligible for the faster access, no quarantine ‘Test and Go’ programme.

Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow (left) has underlined the kingdom’s determination to press on with its reopening to foreign tourism by saying that there may even be an increase in the number of countries eligible to enter under the ‘Test and Go’ no quarantine regime for fully vaccinated travellers. At the same time, Deputy Minister of Public Health Satit Pitutacha (right) and the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) have indicated the shift from PCR to cheaper and quicker antigen testing for fully vaccinated foreign tourists, announced last Friday, may have to be deferred because of concerns about the Omicron variant which have been raised since late last week.

The Thai government is actively considering reversing last Friday’s decision to replace PCR testing for incoming foreign tourists with less expensive antigen tests in the light of developments over the last few days regarding the Omicron COVID-19 virus variant.

However, on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow emphasised that, as of now, there is no reason that this new variant and fears around it should impact Thailand’s continued reopening to foreign tourists.

He also suggested that instead of reducing the number of countries that can enter under the no quarantine ‘Test and Go’ scheme, the list may be extended.

More countries may be eligible for easy entry

On Friday, a spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), Dr Taweesilp Visanuyothin, revealed that officials were in discussion with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over revising the list of eligible countries.

Health officials ask for a review of the list of 63 countries allowed to enter without quarantine

It was initially understood that this may mean removing some countries heavily impacted by the 4th wave of the Delta variant and over heightened concerns linked with the new Omicron strain.

This was reported by a doctor in South Africa last week and was quickly confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a variant of concern.

Japan closes its borders to non-resident foreigners for 14 days as Omicron cases are detected globally

In the last 24 hours, Japan has responded by closing its borders to all non-resident foreigners for 14 days while cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected across the globe in Canada, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, Scotland, the United Kingdom and Australia.

There are also reported to be suspected cases in Ireland.

Despite the sense of urgency and anxiety that has been created surrounding what is thought to be a far more infectious variant that may be capable of more successfully evading current vaccines, Dr Angelique Coetzee, the South African physician who brought it to the attention of the world, insists that the patients she treated had only developed mild symptoms, did not require hospitalisation and all fully recovered.

South African doctor says cases among 30 patients she treated in clinic were mild, half were fully vaccinated

‘What brought them to the surgery was this extreme tiredness,’ she told the media on Sunday. She said other symptoms included muscle aches as well a scratchy and dry throat.

Dr Coetzee, who is Chairwomen of the South African Medical Association, said she had dealt with 30 patients in a 10 day period, half of whom were vaccinated. 

South Africa currently has a 42.7% rate of full vaccination from the virus meaning two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.

Deputy Minister of Public Health says the use of antigen testing for foreign tourists may be deferred

The news that Thailand may defer the introduction of antigen testing for inbound tourists came from Deputy Minister of Public Health Satit Pitutach in a statement at Government House in Bangkok on Monday.

He said the PCR test, for which travellers must pre-book a one-night Safety and Health Administration (SHA) Plus certified hotel before arrival, was more definitive than antigen testing as authorities step up their game to prevent the Omicron variant from reaching Thailand for now while international scientists assess the threat over the coming weeks.

Government taking two to three weeks to assess the situation regarding the Omicron variant says DPM

Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) spokesperson Dr Apisamai Srisangson, on Monday, told reporters that officials have always made it clear that they reserve the right to adjust course if required to deal with the virus situation at all times.

Deputy Prime Minister Supattanapong said the government would take the next two to three weeks to assess the threat posed by the Omicron variant and to listen to expert opinion.

In the meantime, Dr Apisamai confirmed that Thailand has banned all passengers or visitors from eight South African countries from entering Thailand.

The countries concerned are Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

This outright ban will take effect on December 1st or Wednesday.

Public health officials tracking 200 visitors from Africa who entered Thailand after November 15th and have already been released from quarantine

She also revealed that public health officials are tracking 200 visitors who entered Thailand since November 15th from Africa.

They were following up on tourists who were subject to quarantine but were discharged before 14 days to see if any were found to be carrying the Omicron virus variant.

Thailand has also ruled out entry for any other African country under the sandbox scheme meaning that all passengers from the continent excluding the eight banned countries will face 14 days quarantine and extensive PCR testing before being cleared to travel within Thailand

122,000 foreign tourists entered Thailand to Sunday 28th November, only 160 or 0.13% tested positive for COVID-19, official notes mild Omicron symptoms

At a press conference, on Monday, at the Ministry of Public Health in Nonthaburi, Dr Chawetsan Namwat, the Director of the Emergency Disease and Health Disaster Control Division pointed out that COVID-19 has so far been responsible for 5.216 million deaths globally or 1.99% of those who were detected with the disease.

He said that public health officials in Thailand have noted reports worldwide so far that the new Omicron virus variant appeared to be accompanied by mild symptoms.

Up to Sunday the 28th November, the kingdom had received over 122 thousand foreign tourists. Only 160 or 0.13% had been detected with the COVID-19 virus after testing.

The countries that accounted for the largest number of incoming travellers were America, Germany and the Czech Republic but there were no detected cases from these nations.

He also pointed out that none of the detected cases was among visitors from South Africa.

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Further reading:

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