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As the Arcturus strain comes just in time for Songkran, Thailand raises the alarm.

After laboratory testing revealed that the new, more contagious subvariant XBB.1.16 has arrived on these shores, Thailand is once more on the defensive against COVID-19.

As of April 17, there were 27 cases of XBB.1.16 identified in Thailand, and one of those cases resulted in death, according to Dr. Supakit Sirilak, director-general of the Medical Sciences Department.

An elderly foreigner with underlying medical issues passed away. Therefore, his passing may not have clearly illustrated the severity of this subvariant but rather its influence on other risk factors, according to Supakit.

Health officials have issued a warning regarding XBB.1.16 and encouraged the general public to exercise caution. There is no reason to panic, they claimed.

the XBB.1.16 threat

The Omicron bug, also known as Arcturus or XBB.1.16, was widespread last year and is a subvariant of that bug. As a variation under monitoring (VUM), the World Health Organization (WHO) listed XBB.1.16 on March 22.

Since its first discovery in January, XBB.1.16 has spread to numerous nations. For instance, the United States recently calculated that 7.2% of brand-new COVID-19 infections were caused by XBB.1.16.

In India, where many patients have experienced conjunctivitis or itchy pink-eye, a symptom that was absent in earlier COVID-19 waves, Arcturus is also starting to overtake other subvariants as the main one.

Despite being extremely contagious, XBB.1.16 does not appear to cause more hazardous symptoms based on hospitalization and mortality rates, according to health authorities.

How concerned ought we to be?

The most concerning COVID-19 subvariant, according to Prof. Wasun Chantratita, director of Mahidol University’s Center for Medical Genomics, is XBB.1.16 because of its high transmissibility.

It is 89% more transmissible than XBB.1.5 and 200% more transmissible than BN1.3. These subvariants have taken over in Thailand in recent years, he said.

Prof. Dr. Yong Poovorawan, dean of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine and director of the Center of Excellence in Clinical Virology, predicted that XBB.1.16 would soon overtake all other subvariants in Thailand.

All XBB strains, according to him, seem to be able to resist the protection provided by immunizations and prior infections. This implies that those who have previously contracted COVID-19 are susceptible to contracting XBB again.1.16.

The Disease Control Department’s deputy director-general, Dr. Sopon Iamsirithaworn, is pleading with people not to worry. Keep your guard up and receive a booster shot, is his advise.

It’s time to get a booster now, he advised, if your last shot was given more than four months ago.

The majority of individuals in Thailand have had a vaccination injection, and the government continues to provide free COVID-19 shots at a number of venues. However, as vaccinations’ effectiveness in protecting against disease declines over time, booster doses have also been made accessible.

Situation with COVID-19 in Thailand

Prior to the introduction of XBB.1.16, things in Thailand were rapidly returning to normal. The Songkran event, which took place in mid-April and drew large numbers of mask-free revelers, provided the clearest proof. The wild Songkran celebrations resumed in full after three years of epidemic restrictions.

But COVID-19 has now reared its ugly head once more, and the Public Health Ministry is cautioning people to brace themselves for a new wave of infections.

There were 435 individuals hospitalized with the virus between April 9 and 15, a 2.5-fold increase from the previous week.

Dr. Yong recently warned Thai citizens to get ready for another wave of diseases.

According to a typical respiratory illness cycle, the number of new COVID-19 cases will begin to increase in mid-May, peak in June, and then begin to decline in September.

He continued by saying that respiratory infections would spread more quickly once kids started going back to school and the rainy season began.

However, he added, “People may safeguard themselves by following the same rules as before, which include often washing hands and obtaining a booster shot. “Those who are ill ought to cover their faces at all times.”

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