A probable virus transmission rate in this new surge is estimated at up to 170 times, compared to the previous transmission rate in the first round of outbreaks last March due to the variant’s ability itself, a higher rate of infection cases, and a lower guard of the government, according to a noted virologist
The Public Health Ministry has held a press conference to elaborate the fresh surge of Covid-19 infections in the country observed from late March to early April, confirming that it is a new wave “overriding” the second, with the UK variant, GRV, detected for the first time among local transmissions.
Professor Dr.Yong Poovorawan, Head of the Center of Excellence in Clinical Virology at the Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University, also the government’s advisor, was invited to give information to the public as his center has finished the examination of the virus trait suspected to belong to the UK variant.
Dr. Yong said out of 24 samples of Covid-19 infected party-goers sent to his lab, they all contained the UK variant. This is the first time that the variant has been confirmed in local transmissions.
“I must say I am very worried about the situation now. I still have no idea where it was from, despite our efforts to contain it,” said Dr. Yong. Previously, the variant was reported among incoming visitors and contained under state quarantine.
Dr. Yong said the fresh surge right now can be called “the overriding wave”, which means the second wave has not yet subsided, but the new wave is coming.
He said the latest situation occurred almost the same month as the first round of outbreaks, which happened in last March, but at that time the infection cases per day were only around 10, partly due to strict state containment measures. But this time, he said the number of infection cases rises around 100 per day, which is 10 times increase.
Meanwhile, the state seems to lower its guard down, loosening the disease control measures this time. He said they could be far lax, 10 times, than those imposed in the first round, which included curfews and semi-lockdowns.
The variant itself, he said, is more contagious than the one generally found in the country known as Variant G, and is capable of spreading 1.7 times faster than the local variant. So, the country could see the transmission rate in this round up to 170 times at least, he said.
Although this variant is not more lethal than the local variant, the fact is it is found in a high quantity in patients’ bodies while they would generally not show symptoms. So, that means the virus could be carried farther than the local one, thus increasing the risk of widespread infection.
Dr. Yong said he places hopes on a vaccination program, reiterating that it’s harmless and people should not fear it.
He also supports the idea to step up the controlled zoning by imposing maximum control over the highly infected areas including Bangkok, the proposal which the Public Health Ministry has proposed to the government but been rejected so far.
Dr. Yong said concerned medical experts are discussing to review the situation and would repropose the disease control measures to the government again within the next few days.
So far, the government through its Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has decided to maintain its zoning as announced in mid-March, under which no maximum control zones were imposed, or no red zones declared against infection cases beyond 50. That also means domestic travels are still allowed ahead of a long holiday of Songkran from April 12 to 15, but travellers must adhere to announcements issued by the provinces they visit, whether they have to undertake a 14-day quarantine.
The Public Health Ministry’s Emergency Operation Center, the first body to assess Covid-19 situations earlier proposed the government early this week to declare five red zones over five provinces following the fresh surge. They include Bangkok, Pathumthani, Nonthaburi, Samutprakarn, and Nakhon Pathom, where new infection cases have emerged out of entertainment venues.
Since March 22, 257 cases have been reported out of entertainment venues in Thong Lor and Ekamai alone, and 11 more in Pathumthani.
The CCSA reported that at least 15 provinces are found to have cases with connections with these entertainment venues. So far, 68 provinces have Covid-19 infection cases, leaving only nine provinces being Covid-19 free.
Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said after the Cabinet meeting this afternoon that he too felt concerned about the people and felt uncomfortable with the situation, given the fact that the government has to take into consideration various aspects including the economy.
However, he hinted that it will have to make a most appropriate decision, saying the experts are discussing the measures and would soon propose his government to consider.
He urged people to take care of themselves at best, and for the coming Songkran holiday, he also urged them to perform rituals at home and refrain from going out for party or celebrations.
Entertainment venues are one of the prime causes of Covid-19 outbreaks in the country since the first round in last March.
As of today, the CCSA has reported 29,905 cumulative cases; 25,668 are from the second round alone, starting from mid-December last year. 334 are new cases reported along, with 174 being locally transmitted, and 153 being from active case finding.
Worldwide, over 133 million Covid-19 infection cases have been reported today. 3 million deaths have passed since yesterday, according to Reuters’ tally. Reuters said it took more than a year for the global death toll to reach 2 million. The next 1 million deaths were added in just about three months.