BANGKOK — The first known case of the new and apparently more contagious variant of the coronavirus was discovered in Thailand, a top health expert said Sunday.
The variant, called B.1.1.7, was found in a family of four British nationals who arrived in Thailand from the United Kingdom, Yong Poovorawan, a senior virologist from Chulalongkorn University wrote online. The four are being treated inside an isolation ward at a private hospital, he said.
“The strain is more contagious and transmissible,” Yong wrote on his Facebook. “However, it doesn’t cause the disease to be more severe in Thailand or lessen the effectiveness of vaccines. Please be rest assured that all of the four patients are under special care and will only be discharged after they are completely treated.”
He added, “There’s no chance of a transmission in Thailand.”
Yong said the variant was found through genetic sequencing conducted at Chulalongkorn University, in which the data could be used to help trace the origins of the cases found in Thailand.
The government’s pandemic response center has yet to confirm the findings. The new coronavirus strain was first identified in the United Kingdom.
Health officials had said earlier in December that the variant responsible for the new wave of domestic outbreak stemming from the shrimp market in Samut Sakhon province is the GH strain found primarily in India.
Thailand reported 315 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday, bringing up the country’s total tally to 7,694, according to the center’s spokesman Taweesin Visanuyothin.
More stringent restrictions such as limiting opening hours of establishments, requiring restaurants to offer takeaway only, and discouraging people to travel between provinces are set to be implemented in the coming days; Taweesin said PM Prayut Chan-o-cha will deliberate on the new measures tomorrow.
He maintained that the country will not go in full lockdown mode again, but instead it will be the discretion of provincial Governors to apply appropriate measures in their jurisdiction.
“We have learned a lesson that the use of strict measures across the country will only affect innocent people,” Taweesin said. “Those who disobey the laws continued to do so. We will not let innocent people be hurt again.”
As of Sunday, 3,293 coronavirus patients remain in hospitals across Thailand, while 4,337 patients have recovered so far. The country’s total fatality stands at 64.