/Covid UPDATE: 985 new infections in Thailand, a small rise since yesterday | Thaiger

Covid UPDATE: 985 new infections in Thailand, a small rise since yesterday | Thaiger

Referred to as the B117 variant, itt first emerged in the UK county of Kent, thought new research shows it may have been slowly spreading since September 2020. Its spread has accelerated quickly and is now the most prominent strain of Covid-19 in the UK. Studies show that the B117 strain is more deadly, with one study showing deaths from UK variant infections were 30 to 100% higher than earlier variants. The strain also has at least 23 mutations identified so far.

Virologists suspect that the UK variant of Covid-19 may have entered Thailand through Cambodia, as the two countries are experiencing similar infection surges. Thailand is the 42nd country to be infected with the variant. From April 1st, the 14 day mandatory quarantine was relaxed to only 10 days, which may have helped the B117 strain proliferate in Thailand. The Medical Sciences Department expects more detail on the origins in the next few days, after a detailed analysis.

One major problem this new strain presents is vaccine efficiency. Sinopharm, Pfizer and Moderna all look to be fairly effective against the UK variant, but Sinovac and AstraZeneca, the two vaccines currently available in Thailand are less promising. Both vaccines have tested less effective against B117, but AstraZeneca is still 70% effective, according to reports.

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A prominent Thai virologist says Thailand must prevent the arrival of the South African (also known as 20H/501Y.V2, B.1.351 lineage) or Brazilian Covid-19 (B.1.1.248) variants, warning that vaccines are not fully effective against those strains, or at least there is not enough conclusive information about their efficacy against the new variants at this stage.

Yong Poovorawan from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University was addressing a press conference at the Public Health Ministry when he issued the warning.

“We have to be cautious about which novel variants are being imported into our country.”

Yong says the surfaces of the variants carry different protein spikes to those found in the original strain of the virus. This means the virus takes on a different shape, making it more difficult for the human immune system to recognise it.

The Bangkok Post reports that Yong has suggested improved quarantine to keep variants out, but admits this is not fool-proof, given the recent arrival of the UK, or B.1.1.7, variant. He is also calling on the public not to be so concerned about which vaccine they are offered, insisting all the vaccines have been proven safe and effective at reducing serious illness (with very few side effects).

“We can be assured about the quality and efficacy of the vaccines, including those that we have here in Thailand.”

However, over the weekend, a prominent disease control expert in China admitted that their country’s Covid-19 vaccines have “low” effectiveness. There is speculation the country plans to produce mRNA-based vaccines, similar to those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, which China has previously tried to discredit.

The overall efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine, the most well-known of the four developed in China, was found to be as low as 50.4% during late stage trials in Brazil although the performance was better in Indonesia and Turkey.

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