Thai health authorities warned Wednesday that residents should prepare for a possible spike in coronavirus cases after classifying a cluster of the country’s first omicron variant as an unusually fast-spreading incident.superspreader).
The omicron cluster, identified in Thailand’s northeastern Kalasin province on Christmas Eve, is linked to a couple who had just returned from a trip to Belgium and visited bars, concerts and markets. The cluster has infected hundreds of people, with cases spreading to 11 other provinces, said senior health official Opas Karnkawinpong. He said the bar the couple visited was overcrowded and lacked a proper ventilation system.
“On New Year’s Day, if you are planning to visit a place and it doesn’t look safe, don’t go there,” Opas said in a statement to reporters. To date, Thailand has reported 740 cases of the highly contagious variant of the Omicron, including 251 in people who have had contact with foreign arrivals, Opas said.
After coronavirus infections peaked in August to above 20,000, the daily number of cases fell to around 2,500 in the past week. But the Ministry of Health’s planning scenario estimates that by March daily infections could reach 30,000, with more than 160 deaths, if not accompanied by an accelerated program of vaccinations, testing and expansion of social distancing policies. The scenario also shows that, if restrictions are tightened, daily cases could reach 14,000 by February, with fewer than 60 daily deaths.
Meanwhile, the spokesman for Thailand’s coronavirus task force, Taweesin Wisanuyothin said at a separate briefing, in the first two weeks of January, government employees were advised to work from home, and urged the private sector to follow suit.
After detecting the first local case of omicron last week, Thai authorities reinstated mandatory quarantine for foreign arrivals and suspended the “Test & Go” program that allows vaccinated travelers to avoid quarantine. [ab/ka]