The coronavirus currently raging in Myanmar is a different strain from the original virus that spread late last year from Wuhan in China.
This was what Dr Prasit Watanapa, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, told members of the press today. According to Dr. Prasit, the outbreak in Myanmar is caused by the G614 strain of the novel coronavirus or the COVID-19.
By contrast, he said, the original strain of the virus that emerged in Wuhan in December is the D614. The Siriraj Hospital dean said that the G614 strain spreads at a rate that’s 20% faster compared to the D614 strain.
He also added that the G614 is responsible for the outbreak in the Western countries. Because of the rate at which the virus spreads, the strain also needs a “faster response.”
Dr. Prasit made these statements in light of the rising number of cases coming from Myanmar’s border town of Tachilek. The cases involved illegally returning Thais who crossed the border through access points not officially sanctioned by the government.
Most of these returnees have been employed in the entertainment industry in Tachilek. The government has since identified the 1G1-7 Hotel as the breeding ground of the infections in the border town.
In a bid to deter illegal entry, the government has announced that Thais returning from Myanmar can cross officially through sanctioned checkpoints.
One of those checkpoints is the 2nd Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge. Thailand has also initiated stricter border controls in Kanchaburi province, and other border provinces like Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai.
Dr. Prasit said that it’s important for people to inform the government of any infection, especially those coming from Myanmar. Withholding information, he said, could put the population at risk.
“Only one slip can cause great damage to the country,” said Dr Prasit. The health official said that society must not be complacent given the news of the vaccines.
He explained that it would take most likely half a year before the vaccines are rolled out for most of the population. “Don’t pin your hopes on it,” he said.
Thailand has recently inked a deal with AstraZeneca for 26 million doses of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine. Under the agreement, Thailand will be handling the Southeast Asian production of the vaccine through Siam Bioscience Group.
In related news, the United Kingdom is currently undertaking the first COVID-19 vaccination drive after its regulatory body gave emergency use approval for Pfizer’s messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine last week.
Pfizer, together with its German partner BioNTech, is awaiting the decision of the United States’ Food and Drug Administration on a similar application.
The FDA is expected to render a decision this week. Pfizer and its competitor Moderna are also waiting the outcome of a similar application with the European Union.
Thailand now has 4,151 cases of COVID-19 infection in total. 3,880 cases have recovered, while the death toll remains at 60.