Local authorities in the province of Kalasin reported 64 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday (Dec 25), with one doctor at Siriraj Hospital saying half of all new infections in January could be the new Omicron variant.
The Kalasin cluster has been linked to transmissions among staff and patrons at a pub and restaurant that were visited by a married couple on December 12 after they had contracted the Omicron strain.
The husband and wife had returned from Belgium on December 10 and later tested positive for the new variant after their first RT-PCR test turned up negative on arrival. They were admitted to a private hospital in Khon Kaen province on December 18 and remain under close observation in an isolated ward, according to Khon Kaen governor Somsak Jangtrakul.
According to Kalasin’s chief provincial public health officer, Aphichai Limanon, at least 19 musicians, staff, and customers are confirmed to have been infected with the Omicron variant, with another 45 guests still awaiting confirmation.
Both the pub and restaurant have since been closed while the provincial disease control committee considers shutting down additional venues to help contain the outbreak.
Dr. Nitipat Jiarakul, chief of Siriraj Hospital’s Division of Respiratory Disease and Tuberculosis Department, meanwhile warned that up to 50% of new COVID cases in Thailand could be caused by the highly infectious Omicron variant by mid-January. He added that the number of new daily infections could be as high as 10,000-20,000 by February.
Dr. Nitipat noted, however, that the number of severe cases could be as low as 2% compared to the 5% average among patients who contracted previous variants. Exact numbers will ultimately depend on how well the Kingdom handles the COVID situation during the New Year period.