First local transmission of Omicron confirmed

BANGKOK: A 49-year-old-Thai woman is the first case of local infection with the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, caught from her infected husband, a pilot who arrived from Nigeria, a senior health official said today (Dec 20).

Sumanee Wacharasin, hazard communications director of the Department of Disease Control, gives details of the first local infection with the Omicron variant, in a broadcast from Government House today (Dec 20). Photo: Screenshot

Sumanee Wacharasin, hazard communications director of the Department of Disease Control, said the woman’s 62-year-old husband, from Colombia, had received two shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the second dose administered in Nigeria on July 1.

He arrived from Nigeria on Nov 26 and tested negative for COVID-19 upon arrival. He stayed at a hotel in Bangkok under the Sandbox entry scheme, reports the Bangkok Post.

On Dec 1 he received a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine. On Dec 4-6 he stayed home with his wife, had a fever and sore throat and was tired. His antigen test returned negative on Dec 6.

When he did not recover, his wife took him to a hospital on Dec 7, where he tested positive for COVID-19 and the Omicron variant was then confirmed. He was admitted to the hospital and his wife returned home and began self-quarantine.

The wife’s Omicron infection was confirmed on Dec 10 – the first local infection of the Omicron variant, Dr Sumanee said. There was only one high-risk person, the taxi driver who took them to the hospital on Dec 7.

The taxi driver tested negative, was quarantined and would be tested again on Dec 22.

Meanwhile, there were six other Omicron infections among 18 confirmed COVID-19 cases found in Muslim pilgrims returning from hajj in Saudi Arabia.

Dr Sumanee said they were among a group of 31 hajjis who returned last Wednesday. All the infected people were asymptomatic.

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After arrival, the group stayed overnight at a hotel for RT-PCR tests, which found six Omicron cases and eight Delta variant cases.

Four other people in close contact with them tested positive for COVID-19 yesterday and today, including two in Ayutthaya.

Another Omicron case was a Thai hajji who returned to Phuket via the Test & Go entry programme. The 36-year-old man had a headache and nasal congestion last Monday. He was admitted to hospital in Pattani.

Seven other Omicron cases were detected after their arrival at Phuket and Koh Samui airports. They were foreign tourists and Thais. Four of them arrived in Phuket on Dec 13 and three others on Koh Samui last Wednesday and Thursday.

The seven tested positive upon arrival and their Omicron infection was confirmed later, Dr Sumanee said.

There were now 63 confirmed Omicron cases and 20 more suspected.

Between Dec 11 and 19, Omicron cases formed 3.26% of COVID-19 infections nationwide but in Bangkok alone they accounted for 18.3% of all COVID infections, she said.

Dr Chakkarat Pitayawong-anant, director for epidemiology at the Department of Disease Control, said the first Omicron case in Thailand, an American businessman aged 35, had fully recovered and was already discharged from hospital. The man remained in the country for further observation of seven days.

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