Omicron Fears: Reopening, Lockdown to be Evaluated by PM

Hotel workers pick up arriving tourists at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Nov. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

BANGKOK — Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha will decide whether a lockdown will be introduced if the mutant variant of the coronavirus is detected in Thailand, the Ministry of Public Health said.

Relevant agencies have already been instructed by the Prime Minister to closely monitor the spread of the Omicron variant, the ministry said. The tourism reopening, which began just a month ago, will also be reevaluated within 2 weeks’ time, according to public health deputy minister Sathit Pitutecha.

However, Sathit advised against panic, and a lockdown has yet to be discussed, because the government is still currently following developments about the variant.

“The situation will be monitored closely. Measures will be reviewed based on new information coming in,” Sathit was quoted as saying by the media. “If the Omicron strain is found in Thailand, the country will have to face another lockdown.”



Sathit added that the proposed re-opening of entertainment venues and nightlife could still go ahead on January 16 — provided that the Omicron variant is not discovered in the country.

Little is known about Omicron, though health experts believe it could be more contagious than many other variants of the coronavirus. It is still unclear whether the strain is more fatal, and whether it is capable of causing more illness.

But the emergence of Omicron has already prompted the government to backpedal on a plan to replace PCR testing on arrival for foreign visitors with antigen test kits. At Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, it was decided that the PCR tests will remain in place for international arrivals, despite complaints about the time needed to wait for their results.