Thai health officials today confirmed the first Brazilian coronavirus variant but insisted it was not in the wild.
Apisamai Srirangsan of the COVID-19 task force said that among Wednesday’s 2,112 new COVID-19 infections and 15 deaths was one case of the more lethal mutation found in state quarantine.
Apisamai sought to ensure the public that the variant has not been spreading in the population. The Brazilian variant detected early this year is believed to combine increased ease of transmission with a higher viral load. It’s upward of 80% more lethal, and the current crop of vaccines may be less effective against it.
The addition of the mutated strain would complicate the current outbreak, which health workers believe was ignited by the easily spread U.K. variant that reached Thailand after spreading worldwide.
There’s also anxiety over the apparent strain which has emerged in India, where the virus is taking its most horrible toll yet, prompting Thailand to join nations in barring travel from there.
Nonetheless, that variant, dubbed B1617, is also rumored to have made it into Thailand along by way of a Thai student recently returned from India.
That was denied by Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin with a very convincing claim it was only “fake news.” Rather than provide a convincing rationale, Somsak said he had ordered his team to hunt down the source of the news.
Over a year after what had been called the Wuhan virus was rebranded the less stigmatizing “COVID-19,” one local Indian organization objected to what’s become routine language to refer to mutations of the virus.
The India-Thai Chamber of Commerce yesterday issued an open letter urging Bangkok Post editor Soonruth Bunyamanee not to call the B1617 variety the “Indian variant,” as is common practice worldwide.
“Obviously, no specific country is responsible, or is to be blamed, for either the outbreak or the spread of the coronavirus,” read the statement signed by the chamber president Ravi Sehgal.
Thailand has stopped granting certificates of entry for travelers from India – whether citizens or foreign residents – after India recently reported a record-high new COVID-19 cases in late April.