Covid-19 illustration. Credit: CDC, the US

No new “Thai variant” originated out of local environment: Medical Sciences Department

The department has stepped out to clarify the status of the new “Thai variant” of Covid-19 following media reports on the detection of the variant in the UK, saying the variant was brought in from an Egyptian man early this year and successfully contained and has never been originated out of the local settings here

Dr. Supakit Siralak, the department’s Director-General clarified the point during the press briefing today that the variant, first identified as B.1.1.1, was first detected by a lab testing on samples taken from an Egyptian man, who had travelled from Egypt and arrived here in late January.

He was then under state quarantine and sent to hospital before being discharged with cleared symptoms in mid-February. The department then reported to GISAID, a global pool of genomic data on influenza viruses and coronaviruses, to keep the record. The name was then technically changed to C.36.3, Dr. Supakit said.

The variant has been freshly referred to once again as the UK’s Public Health England has updated the information in regard to it after the organisation designated the variant as a Variant Under Investigation (VUI) on Monday (May 24). It gave the reason that this was based on the mutation profile and increased importation from a widening international area.

As of Wednesday (May 26), as many as 34 countries have reported the variant to GISAID, according to PHE. In the UK, the variant has also been detected in 109 cases across the country, the organization noted. It further noted in the latest report updated yesterday that “the C.36.3 variant was first detected in Thailand, in cases who had travelled from Egypt.”

PHE said that there is currently no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective. It further said that it is carrying out laboratory testing to better understand the impact of the mutations on the behaviour of the virus, while adding all appropriate public health interventions will be undertaken, including additional contact tracing and targeted testing.

“Where cases have been identified, additional follow-up of cases, testing of contacts, and if required, targeted case finding will limit its spread,” PHE pointed.

Since, the media in the UK and here have reported on the discovery of the variant, with some branding it as the “Thai variant”.

Dr. Supakit said this was not fair because the variant did not mutate or originate out of local settings or communities. The media may have misunderstood the way it was scientifically noted as “Thailand ex Egypt”. This, he said, meant the variant was detected here, but in an imported case from Egypt, not in a local case.

“In conclusion, there is no such a variant out of our communities, therefore it should not be named as the Thai variant,” said Dr. Supakit.

The Department of Disease Control has also confirmed his clarification, saying there have been no local cases nor transmissions detected since the Egyptian man case.

Source: FDA Thai

“Alternative vaccine”

Thailand has been experiencing more than one variant now, including those from the UK, India, and South Africa, raising fears that there would eventually be the virus mutation into a new local variant in Thai soil.

The ongoing mass vaccination campaign is seen as a means to help prevent such a mutation. Scientists hope that herd immunity would be boosted among the citizens and there would be no widespread Covid-19 infection, the circumstance, which could allow the various variants to get mixed.

So far, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today has just approved the latest vaccine, Sinopharm, which is manufactured by China’s Beijing Institute of Biological Product Co, and has been under a deal led by Chulabhorn Royal Academy. It’s subject to use as an alternative vaccine to the public vaccines arranged by the government, according to the academy’s Secretary-General, Dr. Nithi Mahanonda.

Four vaccines already approved by the organization for emergency use are Coronavac by China’s Sinovac, the UK’s AstraZeneca, Janssen by Johnson&Johnson, and the US’s Moderna.

Dr. Supakit also said of the Indian and South African variants, saying the Indian variant first found in a construction camp in Bangkok has spilt over into one province, but he did not reveal which, while downplaying concerns that the variant is not more lethal than the UK’s.

 So far, 62 samples tested by his department have been confirmed as containing the Indian variant.

For the more concerned South African variant, which was first found in some 11 residents in Tak Bai district in Narathiwas in the South, he just said; “I hoped it has not spread beyond the contained areas.”