Thai health experts came out to soothe public concerns about a new strain of Covid-19, explaining that while it may be more transmissible than previous variants, it is still not a major concern.
Speaking at a press conference on April 18th, Dr. Opas Karnkawinpong, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, revealed that there may be a slight increase in COVID-19 cases following the Songkran festival in Thailand, but the rise is not expected to be significant.
Currently, Thailand’s dominant strain of COVID-19 is a combination of Omicron and XBB.1.5 variants, while the newly identified XBB.1.16 strain is being closely monitored but is not an immediate cause for concern, despite being more transmissible.
Dr. Opas also announced that starting from May 1st, there will be a nationwide campaign to provide free seasonal vaccinations for both COVID-19 and influenza for Thai people.
Meanwhile, Yong Poovorawan, head of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, wrote on his Facebook page that a new wave of COVID-19 outbreak has just begun and is expected to peak between mid-May to June, due to the rainy season and the reopening of schools.
However, he emphasized that the severity of the XBB.1.16 variant is not higher than other variants, although it spreads easily. The treatment protocols for COVID-19 remain unchanged, and high-risk groups such as individuals aged 60 and above and children under 2 years old should take extra precautions.