Omicron containment “not possible,” boosters and public health measures are “correct response”

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Thailand is unlikely to contain the fast-spread Omicron variant of Covid-19 unlike previous strains where the country was successful in curtailing and isolating outbreaks, a senior doctor told Thai Enquirer on Friday.

The Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, is the most dominant strain of Covid-19 in Thailand replacing the Delta strain. It is faster spreading than previously identified variants.

The spread of Omicron has contributed to a sharp rise in daily case numbers with 27,071 new cases reported on Friday. Though milder than previous strains, there were still 80 fatalities reported over the same time period.

“This strain is unlike anything that came before it, it spreads at an alarming rate. And even though the mortality rate is less than one per cent, it is still dangerous,” said a senior doctor at Siriraj Hospital who asked not to be named.

The doctor, who advises the cabinet on Covid-19 policies, said that due to the fast-spreading nature of the virus, trying to contain Omicron would be a mistake.

“The amount of effort to locate, isolate, and quarantine clusters would take an unprecedented amount of effort and will ultimately fail because of how fast this thing goes,” the doctor said.

“That is why many in the medical profession are asking the government to step up the booster vaccine campaign instead, vaccines that we have are still effective in reducing symptoms and mortality rates and the campaign needs to be stepped up,” he said.

“If we try to contain the virus we would just risk economic ruin on a policy that will fail, instead we must make ready hospitals, we must increase vaccines administered, and we must seek out and purchase new technology to combat this disease.”

Despite the growing number of cases, Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said that he and the government were prepared to declare Covid-19 endemic by mid-year and gradually reduce all restrictions.

“This is the right policy to pursue because restrictions will do very little to stop Omicron,” the Siriraj Doctor said.

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