Private sector representatives have urged calm following reports of Thailand’s first Omicron COVID-19 case, warning that a lockdown would be catastrophic for the nation’s recovering economy.
Supant Mongkolsuthree, chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), said there was no need for panic over the emergence of the new variant, adding that the number of new coronavirus infections continues to fall and recoveries consistently outnumber hospital admissions.
Sanan Angubolkul, chairman of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (TCC), agreed with the FTI chairman’s assessment, noting that a return to lockdowns would scare off tourists and tarnish Thailand’s image abroad.
The TCC chairman also said Thais were “experienced” in disease prevention practices, while urging the 10 million citizens who have not yet been vaccinated to quickly get inoculated.
Thailand announced its first Omicron case on Monday after tests confirmed that a US national of Thai descent tested positive for COVID-19 after traveling from Spain, and that he contracted the new variant.
According to Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control (DDC), the Department of Medical Sciences (DMS) is continuing to carry out tests while the man remains in hospital.
Dr Opas noted that although the Omicron variant is more transmissible than other variants, most patients appear to be asymptomatic or exhibit mild symptoms akin to seasonal flu. The vast majority of Omicron cases detected in other countries also required no hospitalization and no fatalities have so far been reported.
DMS Director-General Supakit Sirilak meanwhile urged the government not to replace RT-PCR testing with rapid antigen tests, saying he expected more cases to emerge with the arrival of more tourists to the Kingdom.
Government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha remained confident in the nation’s screening measures for visitors and the ability of its healthcare system to handle the pandemic.
He added that the premier is working closely with health experts to monitor the situation and there has been no change in the government’s current policies.
Thailand is the 47th country in the world to detect the new Omicron variant.