The world could be approaching the end of the Covid-19 pandemic later this year, as evidenced by the rapid-spreading but less-severe Omicron variant, according to the dean of the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital.
Prof Dr Prasit Watanapa said on Tuesday the spread of Omicron would result in the majority of people surviving an infection with the virus and developing immunity.
“The fast-spreading Omicron will replace the more severe Delta variant and this indicates that we are in the latter period of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
“If the majority of the world’s population has Covid-19 and they survive and develop immunity, this will lead to an end of the Covid-19 pandemic, because the global population will have enough immunity, both through vaccination and an infection that is not severe,” Prof Prasit said.
Most countries expected the pandemic would last until the middle or the late part of this year, he said.
However, it was still too early for people to lower their guard against the disease.
He stressed that people must not hope to develop immunity automatically through infection. “Immunity through infection is too risky,” he said.
There was no evidence confirming that infected people would later be safe, and they could still pass the disease to weaker relatives, with undesirable consequences, the dean said.ad
He emphasised the necessity of booster shots of Covid-19 vaccines. “Booster doses reduce infection and the severity of the disease,” he said.
Two doses of Covid-19 vaccine were not enough to cope with Omicron. People needed a booster shot about three months after the second dose, he advised.
In Thailand, 15.8% of the population already received booster doses, he said.
“The disease can be overcome if the global population is vaccinated,” he said.
There was no evidence yet showing when people needed a fourth jab.
“There will be a second generation of Covid-19 vaccines in a few months and people should wait to see their efficacy,” the dean said.
Prof Prasit said that during the Delta wave, daily cases globally were in six digits. With Omicron, the figure soared to 2-3 million a day.
Daily fatalities worldwide had dropped from over 10,000 during Delta’s dominance. At present, fatalities remained about the same and did not shoot up along with the sharp increase in daily cases, meaning lower fatality rates.
However, new fatalities in the United States tended to rise as parts of its citizens opposed vaccination, Prof Prasit said.
Omicron was spreading fast and was dominant in Europe and America. Africa, where the first Omicron case was detected, was bottoming out of the Omicron wave.
Prof Prasit warned of increases in new cases in India, because the Delta variant from India had earlier reached Thailand in just a few weeks, via Myanmar.
Thailand has been recording 7,000-8,000 new cases daily for about a week, with daily fatalities below 20.
The antiviral drugs used in the country could effectively cope with Omicron, he said.
The dean also warned that global climate change could still lead to new diseases.